Student blog of the Stanford University Urban Studies Department

The farm and the city

Stanford President John Hennessy is set to take the mic this Thursday to talk publicly about the University’s proposed New York City campus. The proposed eastward expansion gets, in some ways, to a very core question of urban studies: what is a city? Specifically, what is Stanford the city – and can Stanford be itself in New York?

(For more on the the New York City proposal and Stanford as an academic institution, not a city per se, you may find the Stanford Daily editorial board’s take interesting. As disclosure, I work at The Daily, though not with the editorial board.)

History bears mentioning here. Stanford is no stranger to building or rebuilding: today’s 8,180-acre home campus was once a 650-acre stock farm owned by Leland and Jane, and the early University suffered damage in major earthquakes in 1906 and 1989. And the school has, over the years, established centers for students overseas, in Monterey, Calif., and in Washington, D.C.

But the proposed expansion to New York City may be a bigger move toward an actual second campus, based on clues we can gather about the school’s vision for the East Coast engineering hub. So far, those clues are relatively sparse: “The land is located in the middle of the East River between Manhattan and Queens. Facilities to be constructed on the site would include academic and research space, as well as housing for students and faculty members,” Stanford announced on March 17.

And from Stanford, of course, we have this illustration of the proposed final phase on Roosevelt Island, with the yellow presumably representing residential buildings whose height and parallel footprints evoke Le Corbusier:


As for New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke mostly in terms of economic growth potential when the city put out the call for universities’ proposals. The New York City Economic Development Corporation is undertaking the project.

Until we hear more from Hennessy on Thursday, we can ponder what he told faculty members when he announced Stanford would vie for the New York City campus:

“The time is coming for universities to be in more than one location. The university that figures out how to do it, and not just the way we currently have centers in Washington, D.C., or in other countries, but to really be operating in more than one location, that day is coming. The institution that figures out how to do that, and how to make it work well, will be in a significantly advantaged position.”

Urban Studies students and readers: what do you think about Stanford’s proposed New York City campus? What defines the Stanford campus to you? Could it be replicated in New York? Must it?

Hennessy speaks Thursday at 3:30 p.m. at the Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center. Set to join him are Jim Plummer, dean of the School of Engineering; Jennifer Widom, chairwoman of the computer science department; and Robert Reidy, vice president for land, buildings and real estate.


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