CMU campus redesigns are flawed
No doubt you’ve already stopped by the newly renovated Legacy Plaza; The Tartan actually has been chronicling its evolution these past months, complete with the opening of the food truck two weeks ago.
The redesigned plaza, once known more for bicycle parking and smokers, took a page right out of the “placemaking” playbook, providing a truly inviting space for social and active interactions to happen.
The repaved surfaces, the string lights, and the new modern tables and chairs have created a pleasant and bright space between a heavily pedestrian-trafficked area and Margaret Morrison Hall’s north entrance.
However, there are several decisions which I find troubling, both from a design standpoint and a master plan perspective.
First, while I understand the notion of using food as a tool to bring activity to the site, I think this food truck is problematic because it is in direct competition with the existing off-campus diverse and local food trucks along Margaret Morrison St. The university’s investment in a food truck on-campus seriously undermines its image as a part of — and supporter of — the local business community; and a food truck is not appropriate and out of scale for this site.
Why couldn’t there have been pedestrian-scaled food carts or stands, instead? Placing an industrial truck on campus along a major pedestrian thoroughfare, and having it parked there for days, shows a lack of sensitivity for the pedestrian scale.
Second, the redesign does not provide any bike parking. In fact, the existing bike racks on the north entrance of Margaret Morrison Hall were relocated on Nov. 3 to the north side of West Wing and Resnick House.
This is all part of the university’s larger plan to keep bicycles on the perimeter of campus. I believe this policy and the removal of bike racks to these perimeter areas is misinformed because, as dictated by convenience, cyclists will park their bikes at the closest entrance of their destination and lock up to whatever is most convenient: trees, the railing, benches, chairs, and maybe the food truck itself. This rogue parking will only add clutter to the new Legacy Plaza and diminish its quality.
Additionally, the relocated bike racks will be placed in an area that is not visible and not easily accessible from the main thoroughfare of the campus. This goes against good planning principles, which would never put a parking garage entrance in a hard-to-find area, and it shows the inherent problems that come from the lack of a campus-wide Mobility Master Plan.
The university’s current plan (to keep bicycles on the perimeter) shows their misunderstanding of how their own community (students, faculty, and staff) travel to and within the campus, whether by car, on foot, or on bicycle. A Mobility Master Plan would help to create a more inclusive and inviting campus environment.
I hope that the editorial team at The Tartan will begin to take a deeper look at how our beautiful campus’s design and future master plan can actually add to not only the local neighborhood’s, but also Pittsburgh’s, rededication to an active street life and more livable communities.
Master of Urban Design Candidate
School of Architecture