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McCorkle Place(PDF version of this document)


The Carolina campus is one of the most beautiful in the nation. The essence of this beauty resides in the character of its buildings and grounds, particularly those in the areas of McCorkle and Polk places. The purpose of these design guidelines is to ensure that future buildings and grounds are as well conceived and designed as those of the past.


The goal of these design guidelines is to establish a framework for future designers so that the civic nature and beauty of the historic core is extended to the entire campus. To encourage this, the guidelines recommend that future design decisions reflect the best architectural and landscape traditions now evident on the campus. The guidelines are intended to be a “mirror” and a “lamp,” both documenting the finest examples of campus architecture and landscape and guiding future designs in ways that foster the architectural heritage and innovative spirit of the University and community. In this regard, Carolina’s buildings and grounds should resemble a good academic curriculum, combining tradition and innovation.


What is perhaps most unique about the Carolina campus is that it is at once consistent and diverse. The consistency resides in the brick walks, low stone walls and in the overall appearance of the grounds. These elements unify the campus. The architecture–on the other hand–is diverse in scale, material and style as one moves north to south across campus. Within distinct sectors of the campus however, the architecture is typically consistent in type, scale and siting. Therefore, the organization of the design guidelines begins in Part I with campuswide issues: documentation of existing Carolina building styles and an analysis of open space, building and street types. Part II recommends specific guidelines for three districts of the campus – the “north district,” the “southeast district” and the “southwest district.” Part III analyzes design elements representing an “architectural kit of parts” applicable to the Chapel Hill campus. Lastly, a implementation plan is outlined.Franklin Street

Enhancing the Civic Structure of the Carolina Campus

In many ways the Carolina campus is quite diverse, but there are still many design elements that should be applied consistently throughout. This section of the guidelines explores those buildings and grounds most worthy of reference in future designs. Generally speaking, the growth of the Chapel Hill campus through the pre-war period was consistent with and complementary to the existing grounds. Achieving a balance between built forms and open spaces, planners created truly memorable places. In the modern era, the placement of buildings as individual objects rather than as parts of a greater whole reversed the tradition of architecture forming quality open spaces. Open space lacked character and seemed more afterthought than design. Recent efforts have revived the tradition of space making and knitted the campus together in a complex woven fabric. New projects should balance between built forms and open spaces in the way already unique to Carolina and seek to broaden this tradition.

This section begins by analyzing how existing building styles on the campus either contribute to or detract from this balance. Characteristics of these styles are also discussed. It is also useful to examine general building types and their characteristics. Existing types explored include five that can serve as models for future buildings. These types are analyzed relative to lessons of siting, massing, scale, fenestration and materials. These types can be used to solve most any programmatic or site design challenge one can imagine on the Carolina campus. Beyond the types, architecture on campus should define the public realm, much like the walls of a room define a volume of space. Critical in this equation are the buildings’ height and mass, location of primary entry and facade.

The grounds are analyzed by studying the open space types found on campus and the elements that distinguish them. Broadly interpreted, the grounds include many elements on the campus, both as a walking and planted surface. The garden walls, outdoor furniture and vegetation should remain consistent as the campus grows. Lastly, street types are examined. The examples shown are appropriate models for any new and existing roads on or near campus.

It is the intention of this section of the guidelines to establish appropriate models for most conditions one will find in designing buildings and grounds anywhere on campus. While the traditions of the campus should be the starting point, creativity should be encouraged.

Polk Place