University’s older architecture contributes to unique campus feel and significance

Two weeks ago, I wrote that the Tempe campus is an architectural oasis. This week I will add to that statement: It is also a living museum.

As the 2006 ASU Comprehensive Development Plan on the University’s Facilities and Development Management website says, “ASU has been a major force in the development of the Tempe area.” The University’s role as a catalyst for city growth and center of activity can best be seen in some of its older buildings.

Architecture history professor Thomas Morton called the Moeur building a “hidden gem” and said it is the only building on campus to be constructed of adobe. The WPA program of the New Deal also funded construction of the 72-year-old building.

“[The WPA was] employing literally hundreds of people to actually construct a building on campus … You can read about [the building] in terms of what materials were donated and things like that, but it is wonderful not only as an intriguing building, but, in terms of [historic] significance, it is of its time. Here is a building from the WPA, right on campus.”

The Moeur building is a functional piece of history that is experienced by thousands of people every day, whether they are passing by or walking through the doors that now lead to the Mars Education Program.

Historic buildings are unique artifacts by their exposure and quiet statements made about the past. They are more available ? and perhaps more eloquent ? than a trip to a display case in a traditional museum.

One of the most interesting aspects of the University’s aging building stock is the fact they, when paired with the newer buildings surrounding them, create a sense of unity and dynamism on campus.

Morton said there is a dialogue between Old Main and the Fulton Center/ASU Foundation building.

According to the historic preservation page of the Facilities and Development Management website, Old Main was erected in the late 1890s and is now the home of the ASU Alumni Association.

Back when ASU was Arizona Territorial Normal School, it held classrooms and offices. The Fulton Center is the current location for administrators and the ASU Foundation. It was designed by local firm Architekton to reference Old Main, which is right across the street.

“Here’s this visual counterpoint to Old Main,” Morton said. “[The two buildings] work together.” Morton said newer buildings can “respond” to older buildings.

Architekton’s online profile of the Fulton Center said “ [It] expresses respect for ASU's strong heritage while projecting the institution into the future … A contemporary nod to the future, a floating plane of green reflective glass on the south elevation mirrors the trees and architecture from the oldest part of the campus across the street.”

Perhaps nothing could better express projection into the future than the dramatic glass point on the corner of University Drive and College Avenue, which simultaneously “remembers” the past of Old Main by reflecting it.

“ASU’s campus, in general and in comparison with other universities, [is] very young,” Morton said. “It doesn’t have buildings from the 18th century … What it does have is a series of really interesting structures that are very much about its place.”

ASU’s rich architectural history deserves more than a passing stroll.

 

Explore more buildings with the columnist at jlgunthe@asu.edu Click here to subscribe to the daily State Press newsletter.


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