Concepts in Architecture

In a taped interview, Lew Place was asked by the author: "As an example of concepts in architecture, what led you to the outside designs? Let's consider the Aeronautical Building as an example."

Lew Place: To keep it in the same type of material and design of the Mines and Engineering Building and the small garage buildings across the street from it. In other words, we kept it within the general area of the buildings around it.

Interviewer, JFC: You and your father, Roy Place, have been credited by the College of Architecture's archivist with setting the general style of the campus buildings and so what was set by the Mines and Engineering Building, continued on?

Place: It changed slowly. For example, the columns in front of the Mines and Engineering Building were called Greek type. The Grecian buildings, in ancient days, all had those kinds of columns. It evolved into what is called the Italian Renaissance, and the red brick and white concrete. Then from that, we started to go a little bit more into modern type of architecture without those fancy frills on the outside. We tried to use the mass as a design and followed it pretty closely over all.

JFC: The designs. Were they the result of you and Roy getting together?

Place: Yes. With the chief draftsman. You have to understand that we had a big firm. It wasn't a one or two-man operation. First, there would be the preliminary plan, of how to use the personnel flow of a particular building into the classrooms and out. Then, we had to consider the usage put to the building by the permanent people who stayed there all day. When we got a plan we felt satisfied with, then we would start on the exterior. We would end up with a combination of both. The inside plan was first, to see if we could get what they wanted with the least amount of travel time, and then we'd do the elevations and slowly work them together.

JFC: Who was the guiding light while your father was still active in the firm? Was it your dad?

Place: We worked together when I went with the firm. In the spring of 1985, a graduate student in History, Doug Kupel, presented a paper before the Arizona Historical Society's convention. Chiefly, he spoke of the need for a designation of the early University of Arizona buildings into the National Register of Historic Places. Also, he wanted the plantings included.

References have been made in this report on "Places in the Sun" to College of Architecture comments on the architectural designs of the Place buildings. Because of the technical speech of Doug Kupel, and its descriptions and lasting importance, the text bears repeating. In a letter to the author of this report, Kupel wrote: "There is a real need for a book on Roy Place. I wish you best of luck in your endeavor."

The speech by Doug Kopel: "The occasion of the University of Arizona Centennial in 1985, provides an excellent opportunity to reflect on the architectural history of the campus. In broad terms, there are two architectural patterns present. Prior to 1940, campus architecture was revival in spirit. After World War II, styles diverged in the direction of modern architecture with few exceptions. The building of the post-war period was designed to meet the needs of utility with little regard to ornamentation.

"The dichotomy between the old and the new makes the historic core of the campus, centered around Old Main, a distinct identifiable entity. The cohesiveness of this architectural unity is enhanced by landscape architecture elements which serve to set that portion of the campus apart from newer areas. The goal of this paper is to examine the development of historic architecture at the University of Arizona, focusing on the period from 1885 to 1938. This first half century of growth is a legacy of an earlier era where buildings and landscape elements, while being individually distinctive, combined to present a facade of visual harmony. This unique architectural heritage is worthy of protection and the celebration of the University Centennial should include a recognition of the significance of campus architecture and landscaping.

"Two key words for understanding campus development are growth and change. From a small 40-acre patch of creosote and sage-brush, the campus expanded to contain 321 acres. This growth is continuous but not constant and the patterns are visible in campus architecture. The second theme is adaptation. Over time, the functions ascribed to buildings changed according to the needs of the university. Consequently, many historic buildings have recent additions. Fortunately, these changes generally maintained compatible relationships with the older structures. Buildings constructed after 1938 may fail to contribute toward the historic portion of campus, but the historic buildings manifest enough continuity that the non-contributing structures near the historic core do not detract from the historic feeling in the older portions of the campus.

"The important aspect of campus architecture is its strong consistency. Most of the designs on campus were the work of one architect, Roy Place, and his partnerships. The use of red brick is the one great unifying force on campus. In the early period, workmanship was of exceptional quality. Brickwork, belt courses, and panel designs show a concern for detail. Roofs are usually hipped or gabled and most often are covered with red clay tile, perhaps as a concession to Southwest regional forms. To maintain the sense of classical horizontality, the hipped roofs are obscured with deep bracketed overhangs with parapets. Most of the historic buildings have two or three stories. The result of this conservatism in building design creates a sensation of homegeneity which enhances the campus.

"The era prior to 1938 is distinguished by three different phases of revival architecture. Prior to 1900, architects worked under the influence of the Late Victorian Period. Between 1900 and 1930, buildings show the influence of Classical Revival styles. After 1930, classicism yielded to a strong interest in Italian Romanesque Revival.

"The emphasis of this history is on the built environment, but nothing stands in isolation. Social and intellectual factors exerted considerable influence on the choices of building design and landscaping planning made in any particular period. Buildings on the campus reflected trends in the nation as a whole. The styles chosen represent the desire of the faculty and administration to pattern the University of Arizona after east coast academic institutions. University presidents and scholars generally came from the east or midwest and usually held positions at prestigious universities there prior to their arrival in Tucson. These experiences colored their conceptions of the proper building style for the university. This same influence was also exerted in landscape design. Because the university was primarily an agricultural school in the early years, there was an attempt to transform the natural desert environment into an oasis. Many of the plants on campus are specimens normally found in the eastern and southern United States. These non-native transplantations are significant because they illustrate the landscape conceptions of the early administrators.

"The impetus for establishing the University of Arizona was the passage of the Morrill Act in 1862 which provided for the creation of land grant colleges that emphasized the teaching of agriculture. In 1864, the first Arizona Territorial Legislature authorized a Board of Regents for the University. Over the next twenty years, the task of settling the Territory occupied the energy of the pioneers. It was only in 1885 that the Legislature appropriated funds for the university and in 1886 three Tucsonans donated 40 acres of land as a site. Today, this original parcel is bounded by Park Avenue on the west, Second Street on the north, Mountain Avenue on the east and Fourth Street on the south. Ground-breaking ceremonies for the University Building, now known as Old Main, took place in 1887,-but due to cost overruns and funding problems the building was not finished until 1891. In October of that year, the first and only institution of higher learning opened in the Territory.

"Old Main is Late Victorian Queen Anne in style. This revival had only recently been introduced into Arizona following completion of the railroad in 1880. Although a new style from the east, Phoenix architect James M. Creighton adapted the design to the desert climate. This territorial influence is expressed by the encircling veranda, "English" basement, high ceilings and high-vented attic ... Partially because it is Tucson's only extant building with these design characteristics, Old Main was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

"The construction of Old Main illustrates a common concept in campus planning; the use of a central university hall containing the most important school functions. This idea originated in the colonial period and is best articulated by the Wren Building at the College of William and Mary, Harvard Hall, and Nassau Hall at Princeton. Old Main did not stand alone for long. Four resident halls (three were cottages) were built north of the University Building, one for the president, North Hall of gray stone for students, and two for professors. One additional residence hall was placed to the southwest of Old Main in 1899, South Hall designed by Henry Trost. These residence halls were also in the Queen Anne style. Also present were a number of functional outbuildings. These contained the mining annex, domestic science, and the pump and engine house. Old Main is the only building that remains from the formative period prior to 1900.

EARLY YEARS (1901 – 1929)

"After 1900, a second stylistic phase of architecture replaces the Late Victorian with Classical Revivals. The period 1901-1929 is divided into two eras of building construction, but the classical style is dominant throughout the period. Prior to 1914, building was concentrated in the area near Old Main and extending west. After 1914, development began east of Old Main. It was during this latter era that additional land was obtained to extend the university to what is now Cherry Avenue.

"The most obvious statements of classicism are the monumental Agriculture and Mines and Engineering Buildings with their great porticos of Ionic and Doric columns. It was perhaps fitting that structures for these two principal foci of the university's academic programs should be the most monumental on campus. Classicism in other buildings ranges from the obvious, such as classical porticos with requisite details, to the subtle, such as symmetry, regularity of openings, proportions, and horizontality. Yet, it was classicism with a regional twist; the use of brick and red tile roofs.

"In 1902, work was completed on Herring Hall. This is the purest classical revival building on campus with its clear expression of a small Doric temple with a Roman plan. Although reduced in scale, the imposing white pedimented edifice successfully terminates South Drive. In 1904, the Library and Museum Building was completed. Later, the library would house the College of Law and the Department of Psychology. It is known today as the Douglass Building after the prominent scientist, A.E. Douglass.

"In 1909, the Humanities Building was constructed. (Here, the author, Kupel, means the original Science Building. During its history, it has been called Letters, Arts and Sciences, Liberal Arts, Education, and is now the Speech Building.)

"In 1913, Arizona Hall was constructed, now known as South Hall.

"As the university began to expand beyond the main building, there was as yet no formal arrangement for building sites. Secondary buildings were situated on the small ridge north of University Hall, with parallel buildings to the south. There was, however, an interest in the beautification of the campus. This idea stemmed from the 'City Beautiful' movement and the landscape designs of Frederick Law Olmsted. The City Beautiful movement is represented by formal plantings of trees, shrubs, grass, flowers, vines, and hedges. Olmsted recognized the importance of site conditions, topography, climate, natural views, and vegetation. The Olmsted influence is visible on campus in the curving roads flanked by trees. The greenbelt along Park Avenue is another indication of these organic concepts of landscape design.

"In 1914, Dr. Rufus von KleinSmid arrived on campus. During and after his tenure he became known as the 'building president.' One of the first projects completed was the Agriculture Building, in 1915. One year later, in 1916, the lava-rock wall was started along Park Avenue. In 1918 the Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Laboratory was completed, then known as the Mechanical Arts Building. After the end of World War I, the Berger Memorial Fountain was constructed ... Completed in 1918 was the Mines and Engineering Building and Maricopa Hall was finished in 1920.

"Von KleinSmid left the university in 1921 but did begin a legacy that would soon be completed, the Steward Observatory ... "The road leading to Steward Observatory illustrates a shift from the earlier organic conception of landscape planning to a classical one. These ideas were represented in a 1917 campus plan which was patterned after Thomas Jefferson's "academic village" at the University of Virginia. The plan utilized two parallel rows of academic buildings facing each other across an open space. Behind the academic buildings were two rows of residential quarters. This Jeffersonian concept of planning was strongly classical, stemming from Palladian origins, and emphasized axial symmetry and terminal vistas. However, the 1917 plan called for the removal of the "unclassical" Old Main, which was to be replaced by an elliptical landscaped island. The plan also called for the removal of Herring Hall, to be replaced by a road. Fortunately for these two buildings, 'the 1917 plan was never realized in its entirety. Yet, the plan did result in the development of the mall east of Old Main. A comparison of the gently curving roads west of Old Main and the tree-lined central mall east of the building illustrates the difference between the organic concept of Olmsted and the classical interpretations of later planners.

"Von KleinSmid's departure did not stop construction at the university, although it did slow a bit. In 1921, Cochise Hall was completed and five years later, in 1927, the new Library was completed ... The Library Building is significant because it was designed in the Italian Renaissance Revival style, signifying a shift away from the classical influence. The Renaissance element is expressed by the composition and range of the large arched openings for the second floor reading room. Because of its significance, the Library was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979,

"The final building in the historic area of campus echoes the last dying gasp of classicism. In 1926, "Bear Down" Gym was completed. It is loosely categorized as classical because of its symmetry, surface patterning, strong statement of base, its parapet with implied entablature, and the regularity of its fenestration.

DEPRESSION YEARS (1930 -38)

"In 1929, the state and the nation were plunged into depression.
For the next four years, until 1933, the university faced pay cuts, reduced appropriations, and decreased staff. By 1934, the New Deal began and the nation started to take steps to improve economic conditions. The university was the recipient of government funds and embarked on a major building program under President Homer L. Shantz. In contrast to the classical revival styles used earlier, the buildings constructed between 1935 and 1938 favored the Italian Romanesque Revival style. All of these buildings were designed by Roy Place and exhibit strong similarities in the use of contrasting light and dark patterns around openings, cornices and spandrel panels ...

(Mrs. Evelyn Kirmse, Dean of Women at the time, said: "During the depression, our chief concern was getting as much building as possible. We couldn't be worried about preferred design if it cost more. I remember how much Roy Place like color and he used as much of it as possible.")

"After 1938, architectural styles on campus moved from revival styles to a focus on modern trends. Emphasis was on the vertical rather than the horizontal. The university also expanded tremendously after World War II, moving considerably beyond the old boundaries of the campus.

"Despite the changes after the war, the historic core of the campus maintains a great deal of integrity. This portion of the university has a strong cohesiveness, brought on by a similarity of style, the consistent use of red brick, and formal landscaping planning showing organic and classical influence. The result is a unified architectural statement. When combined with the important contributions of the administrators, educators, and students, the University of Arizona is clearly significant to the local community, to the state, and to the nation.

"The University Centennial is an occasion to reflect upon these achievements, but it can be a time for more than simple retrospection. The buildings and landscape elements in the older portion of the campus are significant as an entity, a cohesive unit, relating to the formative and developmental years of this institution. The importance of the historic campus should be recognized as a complete statement. This portion is really a historic district, deserving of preservation, protection, and acknowledgement. What better way to celebrate the Centennial, than with an official recognition of the University of Arizona Campus Historic District?"

PARKING

The admonition to Lew Place by Regent William R. Mathews to be sure to provide for plenty of parking, points to a concern of architects for campus buildings in recent years.

When Roy Place first began to design UA buildings, he didn't even own an automobile. Most workers either rode bicycles, took public transportation or walked. Who could have foreseen the parking problems of today?

Before the 1940's few students could afford to own an automobile. After World War II and at the beginning of the 1950's this situation changed and parking began to become a foreseeable problem.

In an interview with Warren Moon, architect employed by Lew Place, parking was discussed. The author of this report asked Warren whether Lew Place had ever considered parking garages on the campus.

"Discussion only," Moon said. "I never knew of any real plans. Lew was one of the first to suggest – and he tried to push the idea – that parking be provided underground along the entire length of the mall to the east of Old Main.

"This, to me, was always the most practical way in the world to do it. It doesn't destroy the looks of the campus. It's kind of an inexpensive way to go. It's the way San Francisco went and the way other major cities have gone.

"I never understood why they didn't do that at the university, but I get a feeling that when parking is solved at the university, it's going to be on a commercial basis. I think you're going to find some commercial parking garage people who will come in there and build them – off Speedway and off Sixth Street. There are some areas there that are becoming less expensive residential property and someone could go in there and put up parking garages within easy walking distance to the campus.

"They could easily sell it out for football games. At Ann Arbor, Michigan, people used to go out and park on the university golf course."

previous arrow          next aarow