Five architects who shaped learning at UMD
When the copper dome of UMD's Weber Music Hall was finished, it was supposed to turn rusty brown after a couple of weeks. But the copper sheen lasted a few months, said Cesar Pelli, who designed the building. "The problem with Duluth is that your...
When the copper dome of UMD's Weber Music Hall was finished, it was supposed to turn rusty brown after a couple of weeks.
But the copper sheen lasted a few months, said Cesar Pelli, who designed the building. "The problem with Duluth is that your air is too clean."
Pelli was addressing a Weber audience Thursday at "Brains and Buildings," the University of Minnesota Duluth's Sieur du Luth Fall Lecture and Symposium. Five architects who have played major roles in changing the face of the campus convened to talk about their work, and how each building was conceived to inspire teaching and learning.
One way of changing the appearance of UMD was to select entrance points to the campus and change them completely, with the yet-to-be-built civil engineering building completing that goal, UMD Chancellor Kathryn A. Martin said.
What UMD has done is in many ways the future of higher education, said Thomas Fisher, dean of the University of Minnesota School of Architecture. Using the best possible architects for buildings and landscape is part of how you compete for the best students and faculty, he said.
For Ken Johnson of SJA Architects in Duluth, who designed the UMD library, it was partly about bringing natural light into the space.
"In this climate it gets dark at 4:30 p.m. in November," he said. "Having the natural light in these new buildings is a tremendous asset to the mental health of faculty and students in the long, cold winters."
He said the library, which kicked off a decade-long building blitz, functions as a campus landmark. The rotunda's skylight, surrounded by indigenous wood, is meant to be a symbolic beacon that draws students to the campus, he said.
Each architect talked about using Lake Superior and the natural landscape of northern Minnesota as inspiration, from the materials they used to where buildings were placed.
Classrooms in the James I. Swenson Science Building face the lake so students get the views, said Carol Ross Barney, of Ross Barney Architects, Chicago, who designed the Swenson building and is designing the new civil engineering building.
The open, central atrium in the new Labovitz School of Business was conceived to be a gathering place where informal learning occurs, said Ralph Johnson, of Perkins & Will in Chicago. "The architectural expression reinforces the learning."
And the layout of the entire campus is now a "modern academic village," said Tom Oslund, of Oslund Associates in Minneapolis, who has designed several landscapes for UMD. "These buildings as a hill town are seen from a lot of different perspectives. There's no back door to any of them."
Later at a dinner, Duluth architect David Salmela discussed his plans for UMD's sustainable classroom to be built on Rock Hill behind UMD housing, where a volleyball court now stands. Called the Bagley Nature Area Classroom Pavilion, it will break ground in the spring and will be built to meet platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards. Black zinc panels will cover the walls and vines will grow on windows. A green sod roof will support solar panels.
Because of the goal to meld it with its surroundings, encountering it will be like "coming upon a bear in the woods," Salmela said.