In October 1961, the Skidmore College Board of Trustees voted to build a new campus. They selected O'Neil Ford from San Antonio to be the architect, and he chose Samuel B. Zisman to be his campus planning consultant. Zisman completed his design for the new Jonsson Campus in 1962, and construction began soon thereafter.
The trustees updated Zisman's plan in 1972 for the introduction of coeducation and in 1989 to identify building sites and improve traffic patterns, open space, landscaping, and lighting. In 2004 they commissioned a third update to address issues raised by the decision to use the area to the north and west of Scribner Village not for sports and recreation fields as projected by the 1989 master plan, but instead to build the Northwoods Village apartments.
Prepared by noted campus architect Lo-Yi Chan together with Skidmore's facilities planner Fred DiMauro, this latest plan was approved in 2007 by the Institutional Policy and Planning Committee and by the trustees as a framework for the college's development over the next several decades. It makes compelling reading for anyone with an interest in the college's past or future, opening with Judge Henry Walton's creation of his Woodlawn estate in the early 1800s and ending with the possible completion by 2050 of a new academic quad, being called "Crescent Green," north of Palamountain and North halls.
While the vision of Skidmore in the year 2050 raises intriguing possibilities, it's the picture of the campus through 2015 that's of most pressing interest today. Upon completion of the Zankel Music Center, the plan assumes the college's next priorities will be:
- replacing Scribner Village with new apartment-style buildings—probably two, with about 200 beds each
- relocating the admissions office from its current North Broadway home to the main campus
- construction of a new service building north of the current facilities building, to relocate service functions such as receiving, maintenance, and facilities management
- later expansion of academic programs and departments in the heart of the campus in the spaces freed up by the new building described above
When those projects are finished, the plan projects a new construction phase focused on adding to Dana Science Center and Saisselin Art Center.
The plan considers not only the so-called "pedestrian campus" but also the future of the 300-acre North Woods, which—in the face of competing pressures for ecological preservation, water supply, recreation, education and campus expansion—has become a perennially contentious campus issue.
Through in-depth consultation with all who have an interest in the North Woods, the College has arrived at a consensus that makes a portion of the woods available for the construction of a new academic quad referred to as "Crescent Green" while at the same time preserving the remaining acreage for the following uses:
- The Meditation/Educational Zone, which emphasizes preservation and minimal disturbance of the environment;
- The Recreation/Educational Zone, which, while allowing for multiple recreation uses, excludes bicycles and requires dogs to be leashed;
- The Research/Educational Zone, which allows only the use of trails by humans, with the balance of the land used for scientific research.
"Creatively shaping open space is the key to the growth of the Skidmore campus," says Michael West, vice president for finance and administration. "Perhaps the campus plan's most important finding is that, for at least the next forty years, the college can continue to expand in a manner that enhances the quality of the campus and preserves the green spaces that all of us cherish."