Column Steven: No more monoculture campus

The campus is green. Green, but desolate and boring. It could be much greener.
Steven Snijders Foto Guy Ackermans

The Dutch expertise in large-scale monoculture farming appears to have been applied to the campus: it is a monotonous flat plain. The occasional ditch or puddle, but much of the same and very little variation. Room for improvement.

It is excellent that WUR’s campus offers so much space and vegetation. Other universities in the Netherlands are surrounded by urban concrete and traffic. They get the train station; we get the space and greenery. I take the deal. But the barren grass that currently covers the campus is a missed opportunity. In its Green Perspective Wageningen Campus (2019), WUR states, ‘The design of Wageningen Campus builds on the lined design of the area and its historical spatial elements such as hedges, shrubbery and ditches.’

WUR already has gender-neutral restrooms, now to elevate the spatial planning to the current century

Describing and analysing something from behind a desk may be interesting, but it is far removed from the user’s demands. The straight ditches, hedges and hedgerows served former occupants, the farmers, but not the current occupants: students and employees—uncalled-for conservatism in this post-modern age. WUR already has gender-neutral restrooms, now to elevate spatial planning to the present century.

Forget, for a moment, this week’s snowfall, and recall the pleasant spring weather of last week. It revealed a unique element of Dutch culture: as soon as the sun warms up to spring-like temperatures, we all go out to sit in the sun. The most popular spot to soak up some sun during a break was not the wooden deck near the pond, nor was it the Forum benches, which have been placed there specifically for our comfort. No, the one undisputed favourite spot has students packed in rows.

The barren grassland does not offer much shelter

Students huddled against the Forum building wall just next to the southwest entrance. There, they could enjoy the sun while being sheltered from the wind. A luxury the barren grassland does not offer. Trees offer shelter in the spring and autumn and shade in the summer. I want a campus with many different trees, flowers, and shrubs of different sizes. With undulating paths and playful nooks with different atmospheres.

And, I am not the only person who is dissatisfied with the current green, a survey (N=64) of a group of students conducted last week shows. Comfortable spots for leisure activities are scarce. And so much more could be done: sports equipment, for example, or a terrace.

We need to move towards a modern campus, not with a single expanse of grass but with fifty shades of green.

Steven is doing a Master’s degree in Economics and Policy and enjoys hitting the squash court. He is always up for a game of squash and a good conversation. You can email him here.

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