Design for learning: chronicle of college campuses, past and present; Campus: An American Planning Tradition, by Paul Venable Turner. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press. 337 pp. $35.

The American college campus is unique as a community unto itself. Thomas Jefferson called it ''an academical village.'' When the colonials exchanged the European model of centralized urban universities for individual, predominantly rural college campuses, they set a precedent for the world.

''Campus: An American Planning Tradition'' describes how this change was the natural outgrowth of colonial ideology and the determination to nurture individual and religious independence. The campus was the site chosen for the construction of grand buildings, designed by leading architects of the day. It was a natural setting, away from the distraction of the city. Princeton (originally the College of New Jersey) was the first to use the college green or campus concept.

''Campus'' combines a meticulous factual text with carefully reproduced photographs and sketches. While it shows only a sampling of the thousands of colleges and universities in existence today, it does provide a well-organized, graphic chronology of the development of American college design. Paul Venable Turner is a professor of architectural history at Stanford University.

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