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Master Plan Background

The following sections are quoted from the Board of Trustees approved Master Plan from 1991. Some projects identified in this plan have already been completed. Others are in progress.

The campus of Lewis & Clark College is a very special place. The 130-acre site occupies the height of land in the predominantly residential Palatine Hill area of southwest Portland. The character of the campus is cast by its setting on the grounds of the former "Fir Acres" estate, with its landmark manor house overlooking a magnificent formal garden mall with views eastward to the Willamette Valley and the white cone of Mt. Hood beyond. The campus is framed by Douglas fir woods in the ravines and slopes at its edges - a classic northwest landscape that serves to unify the campus.

 The acquisition of Fir Acres from the Myron Frank estate in 1942 for ,000 was hailed as a symbol of Lewis & Clark's transformation as the "Cinderella School of the Pacific Northwest." Having established itself as a growing four-year college in Portland after years of struggle and perseverance as Albany College, Lewis & Clark had finally found a location and an environment fitting an aspiring liberal arts institution. It was the vision of then-president Morgan Odell in 1944 that Fir Acres would be the setting for major postwar growth of the College. Doctor Odell's 1944 master plan pictured a campus developed formally on the garden mall axis below the Manor, with a cross-axis extending from the mall area of the Albany Quadrangle.

 The development of the campus did not materialize along the classical lines envisioned in the 1944 plan. Rather, the campus evolved as a series of relatively individualized buildings and enclaves typical of the 1950s and 1960s. And, of course, Dr. Odell's 1944 image of the campus did not anticipate the number of automobiles that would have to be fitted into the intricate setting at the top of Palatine Hill. In spite of the somewhat random development pattern, however, the integrity of the old estate grounds and their surrounding woods remains largely intact.

 The exquisite setting of Lewis & Clark is, in fact, its greatest asset and its greatest challenge as a framework for future growth and change. The asset must be preserved and enhanced. But the complex topography of the site, coupled with a development pattern made up of disparate building forms interwoven with an obtrusive network of roads and parking areas, forms a fragmented campus environment that must be made more cohesive. The challenge then, is to allow for cohesive growth to take place in a way that is sympathetic to the intimate scale and texture of the estate setting.

The educational philosophy of the College lends to the mandate that the campus should be a place that fosters social and intellectual contact at many levels. In addition to hosting a mix of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students that is quite remarkable for a liberal arts institution of 3,400 students, the College sustains a vital and growing international program of study abroad. The need is thus for a campus that is attractive to students with an exceptionally diverse set of backgrounds and interest, and one that allows for the fullest exchange of those interests.

Indeed, the primary needs and objectives confirmed during the planning process are indicative of those characteristics of the campus that need to be remedied or enhanced in order to further the goals of the College.

  • Integration/Coherence - A fundamental need is to overcome the sense of fragmentation that has resulted from the disparate array of building forms and the separation of various parts of the campus by roads, parking, and topography. At the came time, the entrance to the campus is to be clarified and improved.
  • Sense of "Center" - There is a great ambiguity as to what constitutes the symbolic and functional "center" of the campus, and thus the need for the plan to create a vibrant focal point.
  • Restoration of the Pedestrian Environment - Conflicts between vehicles and pedestrians throughout the campus, coupled with a lack of clarity of many important pedestrian routes, prompt the need to restore the pedestrian environment as the principal organizing feature of the campus.
  • Enhancement of the Northwest Estate Setting - The inherent visual and environmental attributes of the Manor, its grounds, and the surrounding stands of Douglas Fir are to be preserved and enhanced as a unifying theme of the campus.
  • Adequate Building Space for the College's Programs - The plan must define sites that allow for adequate expansion and better organization of the College's academic, residential and support space, while not imposing on the intimate scale of the campus.

With regard to the need for adequate building space, the master plan responds specifically to a space program set forth by the College to include the following facilities:

  • General purpose classroom/faculty office space
  • Watzek Library expansion (possibly in conjunction with Humanities/Social Sciences expansion)
  • Expansion of the sciences
  • Visual arts instruction and exhibition space
  • Expansion and redefinition of the student housing mix
  • Expansion options for Templeton College Center
  • Athletic facilities improvements
  • Restoration and public use of the ground floor of Manor House Space for College administrative functions
  • Boley Law Library and future law instruction expansion

From a practical standpoint, the master plan for the College must ensure conformance of future development with the requirements of Chapter 33.620 (conditional use Master Plan) of the City of Portland Zoning Code. But ultimately, the plan must give physical from to the College's vision of what it shall be as the next century takes shape. Thus, the plan illustrated in the next chapter describes both a near-term set of development priorities for the next 10 years, and a long-term framework for future growth and change.

Original Fir Acres Estate

Picture of 1944 Master Plan

View of Manor House Gardens

Restored Pedestrian Area

Read the Campus Design Recommendations


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