Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Campus master plan

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Institution Name: Denison University
Original/Historic Place Name: "Greater Denison" Campus Master Plan
Location on Campus:
Date(s) of Construction:
ca. 1920original design Brunner, Arnold W. Olmsted Brothers
Designer: Arnold W. Brunner; Olmsted Brothers
Type of Place: Building group
Style: Romanesque revival, Victorian, Modern/post-WWII, Postmodern, Colonial revival (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, education, history, religion
Narrative: see below
References: see below
1916-present (2006)master plan (campus)

The firms of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., and architect Arnold W. Brunner created a campus master plan for Denison University that became known as "Greater Denison." The designers envisioned an arrangement of quadrangles on the horseshoe shaped ridge that comprises the upper campus. Quadrangles featuring buildings with similar functions were used to foster a sense of community among campus groups. The plan made the most of an irregular landscape and the mature trees on the site, creating a picturesque effect. The architect chose Georgian style architecture to be used throughout campus, with red brick for a look of dignity and warmth. The Depression halted the Greater Denison plan with only Swasey Chapel, two women's dormitories, and the main entrance gateway to campus built. However, the original plan still serves as an integral part of the Denison campus plan, and new buildings continue to be sited according to the Greater Denison plan.

The Olmsted and Brunner firms created a campus master plan that was both aesthetically pleasing and functional for the hilly ridge. The plan was approved by the Board of Trustees in 1921, and was a vital step in creating a cohesive campus environment for a planned enrollment of 1000 students. The Olmsted and Brunner proposal incorporated each individual building into a total plan that preserved the natural topography, but allowed for logical and symmetrical arrangements of buildings within each quad. Below the planned quads, expansive playing fields and a pond were built into the curve of the horseshoe shaped ridge.

The campus is the dominant feature in Granville, with Swasey Chapel being visible from any direction. The Greater Denison plan remains an essential part of the beauty of Denison University. Olmsted Brothers Landscape Architects were nationally influential designers, while Arnold Brunner was noted for a number of building designs, including Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.


Ackerman, Frederick. "The Planning of Colleges and Universities," in "University Buildings Reference Number." Architectural Forum, 54 (June 1931): 691-696.

Chessman, G. Wallace. Denison: The Story of an Ohio College. Granville, OH: Denison University, 1957.

Graham Gund Architects. Comprehensive Master Plan [Denison University]. [Cambridge, MA: Graham Gund Architects], November 1999.

Klauder, Charles Z., and Herbert C. Wise. College Architecture in America and Its Part in the Development of the Campus. New York; London: C. Scribner's Sons, 1929.

Price, Matlack. "Denison University." Architectural Record 54, no. 4 (1923): 299-320.

Recchie, Nancy. Granville Historic District [Denison University]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1980.


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Last update: November 2006