2007 Outstanding Recent Alumna: Jennifer Minasian Trotoux ‘92

Excerpts from Convocation remarks, April 28, 2007

As an architectural historian, I like to say I practice applied history, kind of like applied mathematics. Helping the clients at the architecture, planning, and conservation firm I work for to make real decisions about the future of their historic resources is the way I’ve found to make a difference in the urban landscape.

In 2003, I was fortunate to return to Scripps in a professional capacity when the firm I worked for was selected to assist the College with the implementation of their Getty Campus Heritage Grant. My colleagues and I had the opportunity to study the campus history and its architecture and landscape design in detail and come up with a comprehensive set of recommendations. What made it a special experience was how everyone cared about the place as if it was his or her own home.

Being connected with an institution like Scripps provides a continuity that most of us won’t be able to count on in other parts of our lives. Very few of us can expect our parents to continue living in our childhood home or find one beautiful place to call home for the rest of our lives. This is where the Scripps campus takes its place in our lives as alumnae—it gives us that place to come back to, no matter how long it’s been since we graduated or how far away we’ve moved. We come back to campus every few years, and we see that the old place has changed, like a childhood home that your parents continue to live in, and which evolves with their lives.

The early trustees were remarkable planners. Their passion shows in this 80-year-old place that still fits us, with the necessary adjustments. The spirit of that place, the genius loci, is a result of their striving for good design. Not just in the aesthetic sense, but in the sense of something that would be a fitting and appropriate place to do the work of being a college student, or a professor, or an administrator.

It surprised me to learn through my research here that there was not a big debate in those formative years over what the appropriate architectural style was to carry the new campus. Spanish Colonial Revival was an obvious choice for a Southern California institution in the 1920s, and it was not the style itself or its historic or regionalist message and associations that they necessarily sought.

When I identify the features that define the character of the Scripps campus, I start out listing the things like the hand-trowelled stucco wall surfaces and red clay roof tiles and cast stone ornamentation. But what happened in the design process that made it successful has little to do with the particularities of the palette of materials. It had more to do with the creation of spaces that were right for thought, for creativity, for socializing, for the exchange of ideas, and for friendship.

It’s important to me that the new spaces Scripps builds will be compatible with the significant historic environment that we’ve inherited.

The furthering of these less tangible qualities are what I see as essential, and what I hope for more than anything, as the College grows. More red tile roofs and arched doorways are really beside the point. What Gordon Kaufmann, the architect of Scripps, and Edward Huntsman-Trout, the landscape architect, gave us was the work of talented young practitioners with an understanding of what was beautiful and what was useful. This is the kind of creative energy that still makes this a special place.