Open space and its relationship to the facilities that it frame is an essential part of the image, sense of place, and educational, social, and recreational experience of the University campus. Campus open space is composed of a network of malls, corridors, plazas, greens, and courtyards envisioned to create a functional and beautiful campus mosaic. A basic tenet of effective open space is to create places that support multiple uses and that use resources conservatively and efficiently. The campus is developed to support the the concept of "intellectual open space," meaning they are variously stimulating or calming, renew and inspire, and encourage interactions among the campus community.
The Sonoran Desert setting of Tucson provides unique opportunities and challenges for the campus landscape. Rainfall is scarce, but native flora and fauna are diverse and beautiful. The campus seeks to provide both shaded and sunny environments. During the hot summer days shade is highly sought after. On cold winter mornings the sunshine is warm and welcoming. The climate is "overheated," but outdoor space can easily be made comfortable throughout most of the year. The physical essence of the campus is influenced by history, culture, and physical setting and is described by three principals of shade, enclosed space, and contained greenery. The campus includes a lush, green historic district, large turf malls and recreation fields, and xeric landscapes with rain water harvesting.