Thursday, March 18, 2021


How did the Humanities Building wind up so awful? And it is--it is hard to navigate, has lousy acoustics for concerts(!), single-pane windows to face Wisconsin winters, and it's uglier than homemade sin. How?

Step 1: Brutalist architecture. Step 2: Cut the budget.

"I always tell people, 'Look, it's a really cool piece of architecture, but it doesn't function,'" Brown says of Humanities. "And it really hasn't functioned from day one."

At SIU, Faner Hall, another Brutalist "masterpeice", needs a map. It used to house campus student computing, with IBM 370s and lots of noisy card punches. The curious are invited to try to trace a path through the halls from one end of the second floor to the other.

At UIC the Physics/Chem/Bio building is by no means the oddest architecture on campus. One building--I think it was art--had a layout in which the main hall went up and then down, and rooms branched off upwards from it. The campus once had an amphitheater sort of arrangement by the student center that reached down through the two-level walkway system, the latter presumably to expedite draining buildings in a hurry. For UICC (now UIC), probably the most brutal part was the eminent domain destruction of an ethnic neighborhood that had just undertaken major renovation. I was told that for years a student who showed up in one of the few remaining local businesses could stand waiting for hours.

UPDATE: "the 1st, 2nd, 6th and 7th floors on the northwest side of the Humanities building will be closed to staff, students and the public effective at 4 p.m. on Friday, April 30". "an expansion joint on the 6th floor of the west side of the building has failed"

1 comment:

RichardJohnson said...

One addition to the university architecture saga is that university expansion in the '50s and '60s resulted in some buildings constructed on the cheap- thank you state legislatures- that were decidedly inferior in quality to university buildings in the 1930s. For some funny reason, some have been torn down.