Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Bicycles bask in the shade of a familiar Brutalist landmark on the UW-Madison campus

Brutalism Meets Bicycling
The George L. Mosse Humanities Building, designed by Chicago architect Harry Weese, has been at the corner of Park and University for four decades. Some see it as a classic of the Brutalist style. Many who work and study there consider it an unlivable monstrosity. The Wisconsin State Journal summarized the situation last fall.
Some faculty and staff can't wait to see the building torn down, but it won't happen for at least another 10 years.
In another 10 years, the building will have taken on even more of a historical patina. Brutalist buildings are being torn down all over the country. By then, pressure may build to remodel it, rather than tear it down. Will Humanities survive?. I don't know. I do know that, as a photographer I always enjoy shooting there. But I don't have to work there.


Alex said...

Ultimately, if Brutalist buildings are being torn down all over the country, that says something about Brutalism, doesn't it? If Brutalist fans want to donate the difference between the cost of a new building and renovation then maybe the university should listen. But I think renovation would actually cost more in this instance, and that's why they want to start over with a new building.

This is a terrible analogy on so many levels, but hopefully you'll at least get a good laugh out of it: Saying that we should keep the Humanities building because so many other Brutalist buildings are being torn down is sort of like saying that we should vote Republican out of pity because so many Republicans are losing these days.

George H. said...

More like four decades for this one. I remember suffering through beginning Norwegian classes in there in 1969 (Fr. Joynt and Hr. Berge) and Roman history in 1970 (Prof. Clover). I love the angles on that building, but it was unpleasant for classes even when new. There are many cool windows and stones there. I think they should treat it as a Lego structure and require that someone come up with a different design using the existing materials.

Madison Guy said...

George, I seem to do that a lot with old dates -- can't believe it's been so long, so I round down. Fixed.

Love the Lego idea.