Physiology & Consciousness
Wurster Hall: Concrete
“The building began to take shape with the decision to construct it of concrete inside and out, which reflected both the economics and the aesthetics of the time. However, as often happens within the subculture of architecture, the architects were also reacting to the contemporaneous design of another building, the Yale School of Architecture by Paul Rudolph, which had prompted Esherick to observe that, ‘You couldn't even go to the men's room without having a spatial experience.’ Wurster abhorred avant-garde design, ‘I want you to design a ruin,’ he said, pounding the table for emphasis. His idea of a ruin was a building that had achieved timelessness through freedom from stylistic quirks, and although Wurster Hall has been labeled a Brutalist design, its architects have asserted that they were preoccupied with consistency in the use of materials and forms, not the Brutalist aesthetic. Their rigorous approach was akin to Louis Kahn’s idea of how a building might ‘become what it wanted to be.’ ‘Unfortunately,’ Esherick recalled, ‘we didn’t have the money that Kahn had for the Salk Center in La Jolla to do fantastically controlled concrete work. And the technology of color control in concrete was not what it was today. We were dealing with an unprecedented amount of concrete, and we had to have all the cement and the aggregates come from one place; it is just not good to change the integrity of the structure.’
--excerpt from Sally B. Woodbridge, The College of Environmental Design in Wurster Hall, A History. May 1984. A copy of this essay is in the Environmental Design Archives; it was also published in Places, volume 1, number 2. It has been revised and reprinted for the CED’s 50th Anniversary programming.
Wurster Hall: Form v. Function
“One aspect of the design that has been generally misinterpreted was the exposure of the ductwork and other mechanical equipment. Far from being an expression of style, it was a means of avoiding the tunnel-like corridors that a dropped ceiling concealing the equipment would have produced; it also provided high ceilings in the rooms. Esherick designed parts of the system. ‘Getting the ductwork neat and orderly was something I did because the mechanical engineers didn’t have any special feeling for it. If the ducts ran down corridors, we could put the stringy stuff in the rooms. In the studios the main distribution is in the center so you have the feeling of a higher space around the periphery.’ Having the mechanical equipment exposed also made maintenance easier and was useful in teaching.
--excerpt from Sally B. Woodbridge, The College of Environmental Design in Wurster Hall, A History, May 1984. A copy of this essay is in the Environmental Design Archives; it was also published in Places, volume 1, number 2. It has been revised and reprinted for the CED’s 50th Anniversary programming.