When I first moved to Long Beach six years ago someone told me, “Long Beach is cursed. Once you come here, you can never leave.”
I didn’t believe it then, but I absolutely do now. Maybe for many it’s the great weather, the small-town-but-big-town feel, and the open arms it continually offers those both new and visiting. For me, it’s the great design of a city carried out for more than a century, carefully and successfully creating a feeling of monument, progress, health, and environmental dedication.
In a city like this one, Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) is a great place for sustainability. With campus clubs devoted to the environment and the university itself taking measures for new buildings to meet “green” target goals, the campus is well on its way to being a model school for these practices.
Still, there’s a key component missing: heritage conservation.
If the University is lacking the sense of community seen in the rest of the city and the campus is producing substantial waste and construction debris, how is that sustainable? It’s not. Sustainability is comprehensive.
To create a true environmentally aware campus, it takes more than environmentalism or architectural shortcuts. CSU Long Beach must begin to emphasize its historical characteristics, and embrace them moving forward in design. The campus should continue to have any new buildings designed so that they are continuous with existing aesthetic themes.
But first, to understand what those themes are, the University should survey the campus and understand what it’s working with.
A Historic Resources Survey should be carried out at Long Beach State. A survey would require a team of professionals performing photographic documentation of each building and cultural space (i.e. the Japanese Gardens, Friendship Walk, etc.) on campus. A historic context of Long Beach’s place in the California educational system and the significant period of development of the campus involving the City’s most prominent mid-century modern architects should be written. This information should be made available to university records, students, and the public alike.
From here on out, when the campus performs maintenance and improvement projects, they should definitely make sure any plans don’t destroy historic attributes of the campus design or important architectural achievements. The university should also be making sure that any work carried out on campus requires as little demolition as possible, is respectful to natural resources nearby (like the Los Cerritos Wetlands), and puts a minimal amount of material into landfills.
Most importantly, CSULB needs to nurture a sense of place and community on campus. The grounds offer a distinctive plan – health, design, history and education are all emphasized. But where is the feeling of community? The university should be encouraging new extracurricular activities and course material that touches on the campus itself. By creating a sense of awareness of student locale, the university can encourage investment in the surrounding neighborhood, a commitment to the campus, and a love of its environment which will linger long after graduation. Emphasizing a connection to the campus as comprehensive as the campus itself can help the university to prosper both in the eyes of its students and the greater Long Beach community. Appreciation for the campus and a leadership that invests in its greatest resource sends a message to the people of Long Beach that the university is one of its greatest assets – something known but not always emphasized.
Perhaps this little miniseries on CSULB and its place in our city’s history hasn’t caught the attention of campus administrators. (Then again, maybe it has.) But maybe a couple of you out there are students, or know students. Taking pride in such a significance designed resource and integrating it into our plans for health and prosperity in the greater Long Beach community can go a long way.
Let’s encourage the university to take steps in making sure both heritage and sustainability are a focus for our students. They are, after all, the ones who have the potential and ability to be some of our most active residents.