Document Type

Article

Abstract

The situation that inspired and drove these aesthetic guidelines for campus master planning were unique to the history Bethel University and Seminary. By the early 1960s, Bethel was outgrowing its site on Snelling Avenue in St. Paul. The opportunity to purchase 160 acres in Arden Hills arose and the leap of faith was taken to buy this land and relocate. But it was not that simple. More was involved than mere practical problems of too-little space solved by an abundance of new space. The new space was so radically different than the old space that far more than just “planning and expansion” was involved. A re-envisioning of the physical expression of “Bethel”—its meaning, mission and shaping of a community— was involved. The purchase of a large and basically “raw” wooded site called for a thoughtful and deliberate understanding of what the experience of students should be in their education at Bethel. The old campus was an urban environment, where “nature” was fully domesticated, the land was flattened, the flora was pruned, mown and bordered by cement sidewalks and asphalt streets. This urban setting by structured on the grid of city planning, and surrounded by vehicular traffic, noise, and the lovely but densely packed neighborhood of houses that is Falcon Heights, Minnesota. In radical contrast, the new site in Arden Hills was a different world altogether. Nature was unfettered. There was no grid and the land was not bull-dozed flat. The site was rolling hills, heavily wooded, and contained a lake and a flowing stream. The freedom to dream and design, to create an entirely new kind of campus was wide open. But what should it look like? How should a community “belong” here? Nothing less than a new conception of “Bethel” vis-à-vis the expressive freedom for architecture, for integration into nature, and for the student experience was needed. The “art of a campus’’ could now be designed to mesh with the spirit of education, the theology that had long informed what “Bethel” meant, and the community of students, faculty, staff and administration that work together. A new incarnation of “Bethel” was possible.

Then president Carl Lundquist understood this and appointed Eugene Johnson to craft a set of aesthetic design guidelines for the development of this campus. What Gene crafted became the “founding ideas” for how natural space, architectural space/function and landscape architecture could collaborate to express Bethel’s mission and give persons a lived experience by way of place that embodied the meaning of their education. This promised a fullness—or better, an embodied—experience of education that is inherently implied in the richness of the full liberal arts plus in-depth majors offered with a spiritual integration of faith.

Publication Date

2-2021

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