Campus Architecture
December 2, 2008 6:48 PM   Subscribe

What Universities have great modern architecture projects on campus?

I'm a recent graduate in Architecture, and I'm interested in visiting some campuses that have great architecture. I appreciate historic architecture (Georgetown, Rice, and Stanford come to mind) but what I'm looking for are campuses that have a lot of modern and contemporary architecture. Thanks!
posted by senorpuma to Society & Culture (27 answers total)
The University of Queensland, in Brisbane, Australia.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:54 PM on December 2, 2008

Well, my school (Williams) has several new and fairly important buildings in a contemporary style- the new student center, theater center, science library and two new academic buildings (to be joined by a new library in the next few years). That may or may not be a lot by your definition, but they're all new, central buildings and in a unified style.
posted by MadamM at 6:57 PM on December 2, 2008

Two notable Frank Gehry buildings are at MIT (the Stata Center) and U Minnesota (the campus art museum) and another is under construction at Princeton (the new science library.) To my eye, the Stata Center is the one that's really special. The University of Illinois at Chicago is an entire brutalist campus and is worth seeing, even if you don't like the style, as an example of the vision fully realized. I'm not sure how modern you mean by "modern," but the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh is an attempt to fit a whole university into a 1920s Gothic Revival skyscraper.
posted by escabeche at 7:04 PM on December 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

Yale, apparently.

Harvard has the Harvard Graduate Center by Walter Gropius, and Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts by Le Corbusier.

The Illinois Institute of Technology has a campus designed by Mies van der Rohe; Rem Koolhaas designed the McCormick Tribune Campus Center, which is also sort of a tribute to Mies.
posted by suedehead at 7:09 PM on December 2, 2008

Recent grad? Are they not teaching the history of architecture anymore? Start with the classics…

Yale. MIT. Harvard. IIT.

But when considering MIT, the Stata Center is not "great". I've not been to Rice or Stanford but why would you list them and not UVa? I've not reviewed it but maybe this will help.
posted by Dick Paris at 7:11 PM on December 2, 2008

Oh, and if by 'modern' you mean a time period and not a style, then Columbia has a nice Beaux-Arts campus designed by McKim, Mead, and White.
posted by suedehead at 7:12 PM on December 2, 2008

Having spent my years at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, I suspect that this is going to be a rather depressing thread for me.
posted by intermod at 7:16 PM on December 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

Dunno that it's great, but the north campus of SUNY-Buffalo is just about entirely 70s/80s-modern stuff. It's like working in a Logan's Run set, but the habitrails are convenient in winter. I kinda like the Ellicott Complex, which looks sort of like Habitat67 if you're very drunk and squint.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:03 PM on December 2, 2008

another is under construction at Princeton (the new science library.)

It's finished and is open, and I have to say it looks pretty great.
posted by ob at 8:08 PM on December 2, 2008

I know that brutalist stuff is all over the place at campuses that expanded during the 60s/70s, but we have some nice examples of it up here in Ontario. Robarts Library at UToronto, as well as the building at my almost-alma mater that kind of looks like a scaled-down Boston City Hall.

As for more recent buildings, you will definitely want to take a look at the Donnelly Centre and the Leslie Dan Pharmacy Building if you're ever visiting UToronto.
posted by thisjax at 8:34 PM on December 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

IIT in Chicago was already mentioned, but if I may add, it also has a fantastic new residence hall designed by Helmut Jahn.
posted by subatomiczoo at 8:45 PM on December 2, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you to everyone who's offered suggestions so far...

I think my use of the word "modern" skewed the responses toward mid-century "modernism" more than I intended... what I really mean is "current" or "contemporary". In that sense MIT is a great example with work by Gehry and Steven Holl, among others. But these are examples I'm already familiar with, what I'm interested in is perhaps lesser known but significant buildings (like the suggestion for the Gehry building at U. Minn.).

In particular, any campuses or institutions which have made an effort to get great contemporary buildings on their campuses. This is why I mentioned the "historicist" campuses such as Georgetown, etc. as examples of what I am NOT asking about.

Hope this clarifies, and again a big thank you for suggestions!
posted by senorpuma at 9:21 PM on December 2, 2008

Best answer: The main campus of Arizona State University in Tempe has some newer buildings completed within the past 5 or so years in the glass-and-concrete style, namely Lattie Coor Hall, The Biodesign Institute, ASU Fulton Center. There is also FLW's Gammange Auditorium.
posted by phrayzee at 9:29 PM on December 2, 2008

If you're in the Boston area, Wellesley has three modern buildings on an otherwise pretty traditional-looking campus, most notably the new Lulu Chow Wang Student Center (though the Davis Museum and the Science Center, which is grafted onto the old science building are also worth looking at, and all three won the Harleston Parker Medal). definitely go inside the Wang - I'm sort of sad that it wasn't around when I was a student there.
posted by dropkick queen at 9:35 PM on December 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

The University of Minnesota's Gehry building mentioned in the third post is the Weisman Art Museum.

And Ralph Rapson, who ran the U's architecture school for some 30 years and for whom the new design school building is named, also designed the Rarig Center on campus.
posted by rigby51 at 10:18 PM on December 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

I rather prefer the Gehry building at CWRU to the Stata Center, actually. It's the Peter B. Lewis building, and it's best known for foiling SWAT teams and menacing passersby with sheets of ice.

For what it's worth, MIT has several I.M. Pei buildings - buildings 54 (the Green Building), 66 (the Landau building), 18 (the Dreyfus building), and E15 (the Wiesner building, a.k.a the Media Lab).

Plus, as someone who's had to work or attend classes in those MIT buildings, along with building 32 (the Stata Center), building 32 is by far the least well-designed for actual use as an academic building on a college campus. Same goes for Holl's Simmons Hall: I may be a philistine, but I like architecture that is interesting but still gives residents space to live and work comfortably, as opposed to architecture that is seemingly designed primarily for architectural tourists.
posted by ubersturm at 11:56 PM on December 2, 2008

Università Luigi Bocconi in Milan has a new faculty building that won World Building of the Year. It looks like a building that would be much more interesting to visit in person than squint at in photos, which is usually a good sign. Here's the architects' description.
posted by carbide at 12:41 AM on December 3, 2008

Oh, and another one that's also a bit far for a trip: my own school, University College Dublin, has a mix of modernist and contemporary buildings that I find pretty appealing - aside from that list, there's a small rugby pavilion that's beautiful, and a new Health Sciences building that is functionally and materially gorgeous. The campus tends to be the subject of popular loathing for its concrete, but I've always loved it, even before the perverting effect of studying architecture.

Of course, you might notice that the architecture school is in the 1884 building with the Masonic symbols all over it...
posted by carbide at 12:49 AM on December 3, 2008

Best answer: While you're in Arizona head on down to Tucson and check out the many new buildings at the University of Arizona. IMHO The Gittings Complex (specifically The Stevie Eller Dance Theatre), The Poetry Center, and The Chemistry Building blow anything those ScumDevils put up recently right out of the water. There used to be a long-standing tradition that a building's facade must be 50% red brick, but I think that's been ignored over the past few years.
posted by carsonb at 1:30 AM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've always kind of liked Northwestern's campus.
Also - I've never been there, but I know there were some interesting projects in the post-Katrina renovation of Tulane's campus.
posted by kickingtheground at 7:50 AM on December 3, 2008

Best answer: I know I'm late to the game, but for some really great modern architecture, the University of Cincinnati is really great for this. Wikipedia has a good explanation:
The university has had a strategic plan for the last decade for new architecture to be built by "signature architects." UC itself has an outstanding architecture and design program, and the efforts to have these famous architects design new campus buildings have encouraged students to attend the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP).
* Engineering Research Center, Michael Graves (UC alumnus) (1994)
* Aronoff Center for Art and Design, Peter Eisenman (1996)
* College-Conservatory of Music, Pei Cobb Freed and Partners (Henry Cobb) (1999)
* Vontz Center for Molecular Studies, Frank O. Gehry (1999)
* Tangeman University Center, Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects (2004)
* Steger Student Life Center, Moore Ruble Yudel (2005)
* Campus Recreation Center, Morphosis (Thom Mayne) (2006)
* Lindner Athletic Center, Bernard Tschumi (2006)

For visiting, here's info on getting an architecture tour.
posted by dicaxpuella at 7:59 AM on December 3, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you once again...

In particular, the Arizona schools and U. Cincinnati are exactly the kinds of suggestions I am looking for!

Any others? I'm thinking there has to be some on the west coast...
posted by senorpuma at 9:13 AM on December 3, 2008

UC San Diego has a crazy looking library.

Actually, now that I think about it, a lot of the buildings at UCSD are pretty "modern" looking in terms of architecture. Try this page. If you favourited the ASU buildings, they all are comparable (particularly the Scripps institute, the med center, and there's this weird looking parking entrance by the Price center now that looks like it has spider legs.)

(disclaimer: alumni)
posted by like_neon at 10:04 AM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

The school I attend, Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, NJ, while not a university, has some interesting architecture: the only building that fits your requirement of modern (they completed the building in 2007), however, is the Babbio Center. As students, we always say it looks like its going to launch, but the design has apparently won several awards, and even I have to admit that it is very nice inside.

We also have our original administration building whose architect was Richard Upjohn (also designed Trinity Church in Manhattan). And we also have a very curious circular gym, called Walker Gymnasium.

There's nothing else really modern on campus but the city of Hoboken has a bunch of interesting architecture, and the whole town is smaller than a lot of university campuses. There is a lot of mixing of old with new, a good example is Garden Street Lofts, which completed recently.
posted by miscbuff at 10:16 AM on December 3, 2008

I used to stage manage the peculiar, beautiful UCSC Recital Hall. The Music Center's interior architecture is as interesting as the exterior. Plan site. Flickr coverage.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:32 AM on December 3, 2008

About the UC Santa Cruz Recital Hall: If you do visit there, walk over by one end of this railing, crouch down and clap your hands. The cascading echoes from the flat sides of the vertical slats will create an amazing "chirp" that descends in pitch as the difference in distance from you to each successive slat increases (that is, the slats are spaced evenly, but 2 slats directly in front of you are each the same distance from your ear, while 2 slats down at the other end of the railing have nearly as much difference in distance from your ear as they do between each other, due to the increased angle.) The chirps can also be created inadvertently by the sound of footfalls on the concrete, and it's great fun to watch people make the discovery and start playing with it (often they'll start looking around for the "nest of baby birds".) I love that such an interesting, understated acoustic feature is incorporated into a space for musical performance.

The UCSC campus as a whole is also interesting in the way that buildings have been spaced and planned in such a way that getting around campus regularly entails taking beautiful walks down secluded paths and across footbridges through the redwood canopy.
posted by contraption at 12:10 PM on December 3, 2008

Tulane's University Center is a huge glass-and-metal structure in the center of campus. It was finished after Katrina, but started some time before.
posted by radioamy at 12:22 PM on December 3, 2008

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