Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"Building Consensus": Architecture and Preservation at UMass Make Headlines

The current issue of UMass Magazine features a very important trio of articles highlighting the debates over architecture and historic preservation on campus:

• "Building Consensus," journalist Eric Goldscheider's lead piece, reviews the controversy and the stakes:
Past and future had a bit of a scuffle on campus last spring. As crews prepared to dismantle the College Barn to make way for a new Recreation Center across from the Mullins Center, a fledgling preservation group stopped the proverbial wrecking ball mid-swing.
Led by professor emeritus of wildlife biology Joseph Larson ’56, ’58G Preserve UMass, or PUMA, has more than 100 members, including alumni and active and retired faculty and staff. In the face of the barn’s demise, they convinced Preservation Massachusetts, a statewide organization with a kindred mission, to place the campus as a whole on a list of the 10 most endangered historical resources in the Commonwealth. (full article)
• In "Joining Together," Professor of Classics Emeritus Vincent Cleary tells the story of the old Student Union and chronicles its central role in the life of the campus, from the Eisenhower era, through protests over the Vietnam War and the Rodney King verdict. (full article)

• In "Preserving the Future," our colleague Professor of Architecture and History Max Page (and a former member and Vice Chair of the Historical Commission) explains why the modernist style of many of the campus buildings should be treasured rather than scorned:
What I wish to suggest is that the architecture of this campus, far from being impersonal, cold, drab architecture that some see today was in fact a heroic statement of the value of a public university. As the college became a university in the second half of the 20th Century with aspirations to turn Massachusetts citizens into national leaders, it chose not to mimic the colleges nearby—brick Amherst College, Gothic Mount Holyoke, Victorian Smith. No, campus leaders decided that this national public research university would stake its claim as something modern through its architecture. This university would be elite but not elitist, it would be open and accessible, and it would pursue research in the public interest. There was to be nothing quaint or precious about this new university. It would unshakably place itself as herald of the future. (full article)
The pdf version contains all the articles, along with graphics (photographs and timeline) in full color.

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