Trinity College in Dublin epitomizes our collective vision of a university campus. Here, cobblestoned paths wind among elegant stone 18th- and 19th-century buildings, bicycle racks edge grassy sports fields, and shade trees surround flowering gardens.
There are good reasons why Trinity fits our traditional idea of what a college campus should look like. University designs, after all, are deeply tied to a nation’s history and identity—in fact, they can be seen as architectural monuments to a country’s relationship with learning and education. So for many of us, it feels fitting that a university’s campus should reflect a certain dignity and grandeur.
But there are many kinds of historically relevant design—and just as many ways in which a campus can be beautiful. On the West Coast, for instance, Stanford University’s Mission revival buildings, with their red tile roofs and sandstone walls, are impressive in a way that is distinctly Californian. Peking University in Beijing, meanwhile, has students enter the campus through an ornately painted gate guarded by stone lions—a nod to traditional Chinese architecture.
Some universities choose to embrace more modern architectural and design elements on their campuses—perhaps to signify their evolving relationship with schooling. At the University of Rostock in Germany, for example, turn-of-the-century redbrick Neo-Renaissance structures share the campus with new, streamlined buildings of glass and steel. Newer universities, like Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, often showcase striking contemporary structures by today’s star architects; its School of Art, Design, and Media, built by the locally based CPG Corporation, has won design awards and is also a model for ecologically sustainable architecture.
Still other universities put as much design focus on their green spaces as they do their buildings. The Aarhus University in Denmark, for example, is in the midst of enhancing its hilly and parklike landscape with extensive modern botanical gardens. At the University of Western Australia’s Perth campus, meanwhile, pine trees surround an outdoor auditorium, and ponds and gardens frame an amphitheater used for dance and music performances.
We’ve strived to incorporate all these forms of beauty—architectural, historical, environmental—in our list of the world’s most beautiful universities. If we missed your favorite, post a comment below.