Dr. Know waxes poetic regarding architectural decoration (of both the building and landscape varieties) in this question from the May 2012 issue
Are the grassy mounds on the UC campus purely decorative? Or are they intended to discourage students from traipsing across the lawns? —PuzzledDear Puzzled:No and perhaps. Ever since Walter Gropius and the Bauhaus, respectable architects in the Western World, except for the problematic Robert A. M. Stern, have been extremely reluctant to admit that anything they do is in any way decorative. Architects who design public projects are in a double bind. Not only must they avoid the ornamental disapproval of their professional peers, they must go to ridiculous lengths to avoid censure from legislators who believe that an attractive building is, in some way, sinful. That same mentality applies to landscape architecture.
When, in the free-spending last decades of the 20th century, it dawned on the University of Cincinnati that prospective students might not find their Brezhnevian Automobile Assembly City For Glorious Workers model campus as attractive as, say, Miami, they started shoveling money at the best architects of the day to come up with what is now widely regarded as one of the handsomest and hippest collection of university buildings. Anywhere. And it would not have done to let the buildings be plopped into the sea of asphalt that was then the campus carpet, so the University also shelled out for the powerhouse landscape architect firm Hargreaves Associates to weave everything together—they couldn’t say decoratively—but logically and usefully without looking like a parking lot.
The hummocks that mystify you are part of the Hargreaves solution. The Doctor approves. There is more than a whiff of a links golf course, austere without being frigid. And on his tour of the lumps, the Doctor noted that there were none of the trampled paths that scar most campuses. He was also startled and pleased to realize that at one point he was crossing a woonerf. Look it up.
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