The University of York's Campus West was designed as a scheme integrating architecture and landscaping: a bold masterplan vision to create a town in miniature with a pedestrianised environment. Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall & Partners' (RMJM) design successfully achieves this, creating a refined landscape of water, hard landscaping and greenery that enhances the design and setting of the Grade II-listed and unlisted campus buildings and provides them with added stature and presence. The landscape is a key component of the university campus and forms an integral part of the architectural composition, creating a high-quality public open space and helping to knit the site into the existing environment of the village of Heslington. A lack of railings and other such enclosing features amplifies this integrated setting, as well as enabling freer
movement around the site, and the covered walkways (that connecting the former Langwith College to Central Hall and Vanbrugh College listed at Grade II), lake bridges and various sculptures (two of which are listed at Grade II) are key features of the landscape. The result is a university campus with a strong and distinctive identity.
One of the key features within the designed landscape is the lake, which forms a central focal point at the heart of the campus, and which combines design and aesthetic qualities with a functional purpose; the large lake was designed to solve the site's drainage problems in an economical way, but has also created a feature that provides environmental, amenity and ecological advantages. The lake unifies the landscape and the campus as a whole, providing an impressive setting for the surrounding buildings, and its sinuous and naturalistic form provides visual interest as it winds through the flat land of the campus. Changes in the lake's form, shape and width also cleverly produce a series of different areas, each with their own unique feel, from the eastern river-like section with grassy banks, to the central harbour-like basin, and the wildlife area at the south-western tip. In addition, the lake forms the focus of many of the views into and within the landscape and has a close and important relationship with the surrounding listed and unlisted campus buildings.
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION DECISION
The University of York Campus West designed landscape, laid out from 1963-1980 to designs by RMJM, is recommended for inclusion on the Register at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* it is a physical manifestation of the University of York Development Plan, which was heralded as the beginning of contemporary university planning in Britain;
* its refined design successfully integrates a series of status buildings within a carefully designed landscape, and was praised by the contemporary architectural press;
* the RMJM landscape complements and enhances the C17/C18 designed landscape of Heslington Hall, and combines both hard and soft landscaping to striking effect with formal and informal spaces, water courts, lawned areas, paths with contrasting straight edges and winding lines, and covered walkways, all drawn together by a large sinuous lake that acts as a key focal point within the campus site;
* the landscape was designed by the distinguished mid-C20 architects Andrew Derbyshire and Maurice Lee of RMJM, with Frank Clark, co-founder of the Garden History Society (now The Gardens Trust), as consultant;
Degree of survival:
* despite some later alteration and the introduction of new buildings the landscape survives well overall and retains its character and key features;
* it has strong group value with listed features on the campus