When viewed from the technical vantage point of an architect, the discerning eye of an artist, or sociocultural perspective of a historian, the remarkable buildings of Louisiana State University reveal not only a legacy that goes back to the Renaissance but also a primer of architectural principles that guided the creation of one of the most distinctive academic environments in the United States.
Author, professor, and architect J. Michael Desmond traces the university’s development from its pre–Civil War origins in Pineville, Louisiana, through its two downtown Baton Rouge locations, to its move to the Williams “Gartness” Plantation south of the city in the 1920s. The layout of the present campus began with the vision of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. The German-born architect Theodore Link developed and reinterpreted the Olmsted campus plan, producing designs for fourteen of the nineteen core campus buildings. After Link's untimely death in 1923, the New Orleans firm of Wogan & Bernard completed Link's buildings, which in their formal symmetry and fine classical details reflect the influence of sixteenth-century architect Andrea Palladio.
Explosive growth during the 1930s and the impact of the automobile demanded an expansion beyond the campus core. The firm of Weiss, Dreyfous & Seiferth took over as campus architects in 1932, and Baton Rouge landscaper Steele Burden oversaw the live oak plantings for which the LSU campus became renowned. The essential structure of the campus and its landscape was in place by the time the United States entered World War II.
The Architecture of LSU includes a wealth of photographs, plans, drawings, and maps that underscore the contributions of key historical figures and the genealogies of the campus’s architecture and planning. By meticulously tracing the origins and evolution of LSU’s architectural core and exploring the fundamentals of American college campus design, Desmond shows the far-reaching rewards of public environments that integrate natural and constructed elements to meet both practical and aesthetic goals.
J. Michael Desmond has taught architectural history and design for twenty-five years. An architect, he earned his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his master’s degree of architecture in urban design from Harvard University, and his bachelor’s degree of architecture from LSU.