Kresge College Wayfinding and Environmental Graphics



Kresge College at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), originally designed in 1971 by Turnbull Associates and Charles W Moore Associates (MLTW), is well known both for its “stage set” like architecture and its innovative use of supergraphics. The campus design, inspired by Italian hilltowns, creates a sense of home at multiple scales by situating people in their environment. In a 1986 interview with the New York Times architecture critic, Leon Whiteson, Charles Moore stated, “to make a place is to make a domain that helps people know where they are and by extension who they are.” The redwood forest, the architecture, and students’ daily lives are all figures orchestrated in a discourse created by architectural and graphic elements, unfolding along what was referred to by the architects as the “village street.” These moves challenged architecture’s vanguard: modernists that used 1 abstract form to break away from the past.

A current renewal and expansion of the College led by Studio Gang Architects (SGA) with associate architects TEF Design, poses the question: how has our notion of home changed since Kresge College’s original construction? In the 1970s, the modernist ideal of home suggested a disconnect to architectural history; today’s sense of home suggests new relationships with temporal and spatial context. Finally, this newest challenge requires integrating new tools that allow us to understand the nuanced and complex ways in which an environment becomes a home.


This project presents a unique opportunity to reconsider the role of signage, wayfinding, and experience design to produce an environment in which residents and visitors are not only oriented, but also active participants in shaping their community and their sense of home. In addition, this renewal presents an opportunity to broaden the sense of place to include the dynamic socio-ecological conditions operating at Kresge College, University of California, Santa Cruz, and the San Lorenzo Watershed. We hope to broaden the identity of the College as a home for students and other living things: a multi-species habitat.



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