Urban planner Paul Kurstjens created a unique guide with thirteen promenades across Dutch university grounds. The route in Wageningen starts in the town centre, passes along the hill and ends on campus.
The walking guide will be launched on 24 May during the VSNU Education Festival in Orion. © Uitgeverij Gegarandeerd Onregelmatig
‘I’m not much of a walker, I am mainly an urban planner’, Paul Kurstjens says. It is somewhat strange to hear this from a man who just compiled a guide with thirteen walking routes across university grounds, including Wageningen. Kurstjens explains: ‘Some time ago, I was asked by the publisher to create a walking guide with routes through Vinex-locations. As I spent time reading up on these locations, the project became more and more interesting. I then came up with the idea to create a similar guide across the grounds of the thirteen universities in the Netherlands. Just like Vinex-locations, the university grounds are very dynamic settings. The growth of the student population forces universities to expand or even to move out of town and onto a campus, like WUR.’
The stroll which Kurstjens has traced starts at the oldest buildings in the centre of Wageningen and moves towards the newly built campus. On the map, it resembles a paperclip that has been pulled open. ‘I start puzzling on a route using Google Maps’, Kurstjens says, ‘then I visit the locations and take pictures of the buildings. I have walked the course that passes along all interesting university buildings about three times.’ Additionally, Kurstjens has read up on the history of the university and the individual buildings, and he has spoken to various employees.
Once the route has been set to paper, the publisher organises a trial walk. ‘This always yields some feedback. The trial walkers thought the initial walk was far too long. In hindsight, it makes sense to me, as the stroll passed along the banks. It is something I like myself very much.’ The eventual route was shortened to around 10 kilometres. It is not a full tour, but the starting point is accessible by bus and one can take a bus from the end on campus to get back into town.
For Kurstjens, the primary idea for the promenade is to experience the spatial evolution of the university from a walker’s perspective. This is reinforced by the public accessibility of many university buildings. ‘I was surprised at how many buildings are openly accessible. Of course, there is always a porter who keeps an eye on everything. But if one behaves properly, there is nothing in the path of the walker. For this reason, the route passes right through several campus buildings, to let the stroller get a full whiff of the contemporary student life.’ Kurstjens does warn that this is obviously only possible on weekdays.
What sets the Wageningen university apart are the arboreta. ‘Many universities have a botanical garden, but only Wageningen has an arboretum. Two even!’ When asked which building is the finest in Wageningen, Kurstjens is careful. ‘People also ask me which of the routes is the most beautiful. My answer is: I have thirteen children, and each of them is as lovely as any other.’ But with a bit of insistence, the creator comes up with a building by the architect Blaauw. ‘Het Schip van Blaauw, which once housed the plant physiology laboratory, is an architectural marvel from the period of the Amsterdam School.’ Nowadays, the monumental building on the Generaal Foulkesweg has been acquired by small companies.
On campus, the buildings scoring well with Kurstjens are Plus Ultra and Lumen.