The Architecture of Connecticut College

By: Thomas Blake McDonald '10

Advising Faculty: Abigail Van Slyck

The Connecticut College campus has changed dramatically in the last century. Originally a women’s college design as a series of Gothic quadrangles inspired by the examples of prestigious English universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, development changed course dramatically in the 1920s and 1930s, as inwardly focused designs gave way to a sweeping Campus Green modeled after Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia. While the Green continued to serve as the organizing spine of the campus, by the midcentury the College had introduced Modernist buildings to facilitate both coeducation and expanding curriculums.

This thesis starts from the premise that these changes are meaningful. Each period of expansion tells us not only about the aesthetic vision of the architects who designed the individual buildings, but also about the values of those who commissioned the structures. Thus, the spaces of the Connecticut College campus, as well as the grounds themselves, are a useful medium for understanding the educational, social, and cultural values that informed the school’s history.

Based on extensive archival research and on a close reading of the buildings and their relationships to one another, this thesis considers the physical forms of the Connecticut College campus and their role in shaping both student experience and the image the College presented to the world at large.

This honors thesis may be viewed at Digital Commons @ Connecticut College,

Related Fields: Architectural Studies