Mad, crazy thanks to Max Page and Sanjay Arwade from UMass’ Architecture and Civil and Environmental Engineering Departments for putting together my jointly-sponsored lecture there last night. A good crowd, good discussion before and afterwards, and a tour of Massachusetts’ only Frank Lloyd Wright house thrown in (most people, when they go to Amherst, see Emily Dickinson’s house. Not me…).
UMass is known for its collection of postwar architecture–“brutalist,” sure, but it’s a particularly fine collection of work by architects like Breuer, Stubbins, and Roche all on their best behavior. I stayed in the Breuer building, part of which is the University’s hotel, which was a genuine treat–all gorgeous concrete, mostly still exposed even after some renovations to warm the thing up. The building has a large meeting hall that features a UNESCO-like folded plate roof, which naturally led us to talk about the influence of Nervi and Breuer on one another. As I’ve suggested before, I think there was a billiard ball effect when these two met–both careers were forever changed by that project, and UMass shows Breuer’s Nervi-inspired love of sculptural, maybe “neb-structural’ concrete.
And facing Breuer across the quad-like pond is 500+ feet of Kevin Roche at his best in the mid-1970s. The Architecture department is one of several housed in this gargantuan but really humane building, a monument of exposed concrete with a single line of studios marked by the north-facing skylight up above. A simple move, but one that recalls colonnades and cornices, pediments and arcades without being too explicit. Uh, that Ed Stone library in the background? OK, you can ignore that one.
Fun few days. Back to Iowa tonight, lecturing tomorrow at 5:30 at Simpson College on the history of the State Fair buildings with other historians and photographers. A change of gears, to be sure…