November 17, 2009

"Oh, the Humanities Building."

"You are a massive block of concrete that houses the studies for which you are appropriately named. Since your completed construction in 1969, you have been a cold, lonely home to the studies of music, art, English, and history; all of which seem strangely out of place beneath your sunken temple walls (perhaps with the exclusion of history). Ever since the announcement of your imminent destruction, I have been absolutely enthralled."

"Oh, the Humanities Building" is a nice play on the famous cry of empathy, upon which there have been many plays, this being perhaps the best.

28 comments:

AllenS said...

Oh, The Obama, The Humanities!

alan markus said...

Having once been on a committee for our local Habitat for Humanity chapter, I always enjoyed that Simpsons episode set at a zoo, and one of the directional signs pointed towards "Habitat for Huge Manatees"

Original Mike said...

I actually have always liked that building, but I know I am alone.

It does seem a poor fit for Humanities. It should be an engineering or science building.

k*thy said...

If there is one building that needs to come down on campus, it's this one. It's ridiculously bad. It's my understanding that the rest of that block will house the various humanities - so the timing of demo and rebuilding shouldn't be that hard to coordinate to lesson the interference with ongoing classes.

MadisonMan said...

I have a certain fondness for Humanities, like I might have for a dowager Aunt with iron grey hair and a faint moustache and hair sprouting from the large mole under her eye. It helps that I don't have to see it on a daily basis, or (even worse) work there. But the editorial asks a good question: Where would all the classes that are held there take place while the thing is redone?

rhhardin said...

Putting a cliche in quotes is what is hypocritical.

It seems paradoxical, hypocritical even, that I call for change, but am not willing to “foot the bill” for such a project.

Independent George said...

Brutalism is one of the sins of the 60s/70s which we are still paying for; for some reason, it remains beloved among architects even as it is rejected by philistines like me.

That op-ed, though, was atrocious:

As a student that has many classes in the humanities, I pose the question: Where will these classes be relocated to? And when relocated, will the new classrooms be sufficient for teaching and learning? Who will pay for these demolitions and reconstructions? It seems paradoxical, hypocritical even, that I call for change, but am not willing to “foot the bill” for such a project. However, the responsibility to provide adequate facilities does not rest within staff and students, but rather the university itself. The construction of a new home for the humanities may be a ways off, but the university needs to begin planning and crafting specifics now. The sooner this occurs the better, and the more input students can provide about what they pay for out of their parents’ pockets.

Umm... ok? He offers no specific criticisms or suggestions, does no analysis of the budget or debt, and expresses no conditions under which he would support or oppose the project. Instead, his entire position seems to be, "we need to plan this carefully."

Thanks. That's very helpful.

john said...

Why is the paper called the Daily Cardinal?

(I was unable to find out if badgers hybernate, which would be a good reason not to call it the Daily Badger.)

It's not Stanford, after all.

Fred4Pres said...

Oh the huge manatee!

Ann Althouse said...

@Fred Your click resistance is showing.

bearbee said...

Link to pic of the building?

rhhardin said...

Erik Satie "Brutal"

One of seven pieces in the collection "Three Pieces in the Shape of a Pear."

Written after Debussy said that his works lacked form.

Jason said...

I nominate the famous WKRP 'Turkey Drop' scene.

PatCA said...

Nice article.

I think also that it's a nice metaphor for the Humanities as a subject, which is now undergoing much needed creative destruction.

Balfegor said...

all of which seem strangely out of place beneath your sunken temple walls (perhaps with the exclusion of history).

Only if the temple is a temple to dead Cthulhu, sleeping beneath Rlyeh, and the history is a history of noxious half-human creatures worshipping their incomprehensible elder gods. Or the history department at Miskatonic U.

Balfegor said...

Good heavens, it's even uglier than I thought. You know, we should keep these brutalist architectural atrocities. Future generations may find it difficult to imagine how the world could exalt ugliness and the totalitarian aesthetic so. And we can use them as the bad-guys' headquarters in cheap sci-fi movies.

Beta Conservative said...

There is a main concert hall (Mills as I recall) and two recital size halls on either side of Mills.

Though the building is an atrocity from the outside, I attended many excellent symphonic concerts and small group recitals over the course of my daughter's 4 years at Madison.

I have a soft spot for the place, and I think the acoustics were surprisingly good.

I wonder where the various ensembles will perform during construction.

merglers2016 said...

Although most of my favorite classes were held in that building (choral and history), I will be more-than pleased to see it go. Six years at the UW, and I still got lost in the damn thing!
To John: UW colors are actually cardinal and white, not red and white, and I suspect that's the reason the Cardnial is so named.

traditionalguy said...

I think of Bomb Shelter Buildings as Archives Buildings protecting western civilization's records from nuclear blasts. So maybe a Humanities Building is best done in a Brutalist Concrete Hunk.

Original Mike said...

Haven't really looked at it in awhile, so I reviewed the photos Balfegor linked to.

Sorry. I still like it.

Kaitlin said...

I'm with Original Mike. I love the humanities building.

And if Humanities has to go because of it's architectural style, doesn't Vilas (across University) have to go, too?

And will this mean a loss of the pedestrian bridges? I really liked not having to cross Park Street to get to the law school...

p.t. fogger said...

I have a friend who once referred to body odor / sweat as "eau d'humanitie".

J said...

"Some of these buildings are over thirty years old"

- Harris K. Telemacher

Paul said...

The worlds only six-story above ground basement.

My first semester, I was in a discussion session and the fire alarm went off. Fire alarm? What could burn?

Good classes and good riddance.

james said...

It seems to this non-architect that quite a bit of the concrete is getting to be iron-stained as the rebar inside rusts. They had to rebuild the north set of stairs a few years back because they were crumbling. Is inferior construction a characteristic of the "brutal" school of architecture?

I think the "concrete zeppelin" at SIU was inflicted at about the same time--anybody know if that is corroding away too?

Balfegor said...

Is inferior construction a characteristic of the "brutal" school of architecture?

Not intrinsicly, as far as I know. But modern architecture often suffers from these kinds of problems. They age badly not only because they're trendy, but also because many of the features -- like flat roofs and cantilevers -- hold up badly under ordinary environmental stresses. Snow falling on a steeply gabled roof of the traditional sort, for example, slides off or at least has weight mostly distributed over to load bearing walls. Snow falling on a flat roof just piles up and puts heavy stress on the roof itself. The problem is even worse when there's some cantilevered structure projecting out over nothing -- contrast that with a structure supported by classical (or even gothic) arches. I actually like Frank Lloyd-Wright's designs, but this kind of thing is a regular criticism one hears about his houses -- that they cost an awful lot just to keep them in shape.

kurtisj said...

It will be missed -- it made a hilarious grey backstop for friends learning to rollerblade down Bascom for the first time.

And Standish Henning griped about the lack of funds for blown lightbulbs in the building in between lively "Tempest" passage readings. He would be very happy to see the change in previously misguided administrative priorities.
Oh wait, but will the football team be able to afford new uniforms?

Stan said...

Oh, the humanity! I thought you might be referencing the famous WKRP radio report on their turkey drop. It's about 1:30 into this audio. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5B9ddeLdcQ&feature=related