Swarthmore College Master Plan

Swarthmore, PA

Swarthmore is distinguished not only as one of the country’s premier undergraduate liberal arts colleges, but also for its extraordinary campus: its more than 300 acres are maintained by the Scott Arboretum, established in 1929 as a demonstration garden. The College considers the entire environment — gardens, woodland, pathways, and buildings — essential to the learning experience and places a premium on informal and serendipitous encounters between faculty and students. But changes to the campus — especially the growing dominance of vehicular traffic and parking — and, inevitably, in the needs of the College made a master plan for future development essential.

Our plan builds on Swarthmore’s existing traditions and precedents, especially those of the South Campus. We reoriented vehicular traffic to the campus perimeter, restoring the central tree-lined alleé to pedestrian use, extending this axis north from Parrish Hall to Whittier Place, and consolidating the parking in a single landscaped area at the north end of the campus. The plan also creates a visual framework of pathways, open spaces or outdoor “rooms,” and buildings, to provide clear orientation and to set principles for the siting of new buildings.

Those principles focused on the role any new structure might play in influencing the entire educational experience. Thus our guidelines call for building footprints that create new opportunities for adjacent outdoor spaces and for locations that positively affect the potential for interaction among members of the Swarthmore community. We support the preservation of the College’s traditional mix of uses within buildings: the juxtaposition of classrooms, lounges, and faculty and departmental offices makes an important contribution to the intellectual and social liveliness of college life.