Points of Architectural Interest

UMass Dartmouth offers many views that illustrate Paul Rudolph’s vision for the design of the campus.

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The University Library Architect Paul Rudolph had moved from his modernist beginnings to the more monolithic Brutalist style. The term grew out of the French beton brut or “raw concrete.” Called by some the “architecture of exhilaration,” it was at its heyday in the 1960s and was widely used in the design of universities, libraries, schools, businesses and residential homes across the country. There were many instances of Brutalist design outside of the United States, but Rudolph and others often criticized these as too smooth, fair and modular. They felt more texture was needed, and that the designs should be more modern. Rudolph’s own designs were more expressive and included a more human element. His goal was to integrate art into everyday life and use lots of visual stimulation. University Library
The University Library
Brutalist buildings are usually made of concrete or brick and tend to be very futuristic. There are no vast expanses of smooth concrete. Everything has texture. This was one of the primary differences between the Modernist style with its smooth lines of glass and steel. The Brutalist style is perhaps not well-named because its sounds cruel and ugly when in fact it is meant to be much more human. All of the texture in these large imposing buildings brings them down to human scale.
Characteristic overhangs
Characteristic overhangs
By the 1960s, the “baby boomer” generation was growing up, causing a great influx of college students, and new schools were needed to keep up with the demand. UMass Dartmouth (then known as Southeastern Massachusetts Institute of Technology) was one of many new educational institutions built across the country in the 1960s and 70s.

This campus was a crowning achievement of Rudolph’s design philosophies and will remain an important part of his lasting legacy. The overhangs on the third and fifth floors of the library, particularly on the northeast side of the building, offer some of the best views of the campus
View from the library; looking northeast
View from the Library, looking northeast
The Campanile might never have been built had it not been designated a “communications tower.” Rudolph and others felt strongly that this would be an important structure that added to the aesthetic appeal of the campus. It is a focal point that enforces many of the lines, angles, and other visual cues found on all the buildings here.
The Campanile
There was pressure to get the job done as quickly as possible. Simple, repetitive, economical building materials were needed: concrete, steel and glass.
Plaza outside Group I
Plaza outside Group I
All of the building blocks used had fluting added to them at increased expense to decorate the buildings walls and columns with rounded grooves. Other smooth surfaces on ceilings and walls and near stairs had lines pressed into the concrete. All of the texture in these large imposing buildings brings them down to human scale, while the large shape and size is meant to elicit emotions from the users.
Interior Structure
Interior Structure
Inside the buildings, much of the structure is exposed. The included services and human uses are also clear and open. This is a signature of the Brutalist style, symbolizing honesty and integrity. There is nothing to hide. Practicality and user-friendliness are the primary design considerations. The interior spaces are creative and lively. All around school the omnipresent neutral gray concrete is contrasted with bright banners, doors, and carpet to bring life to the campus. Rudolph was ahead of his time with his lighting design.
Group I Lounge
Group I Lounge
Within the architectural design, one finds matching squares, triangles and cylinders of exponentially different sizes, in the large split-level buildings down to the individual walls and windows. These and other lines and geometrical shapes are constantly repeated and reinforced across the campus.
Hallways leading to faculty offices
Brightly lit hallways lead to faculty offices
The lounges in the Group I building are some of the most successful spaces on campus. The interiors are dynamic, playing with light and shadow, drama and abstraction. Beams slide past vertical supports; walls are de-emphasized. Built-in furnishings enhance and divide the spaces.
Group I Lobby
Dramatic space in Group I lobby
Together with the large glass and steel windows it often gives them a somewhat skeletal appearance. This philosophy is also continued with the choice of materials. What isn’t structure is glass and rock. So everything is very real and honest. Everywhere you look are large windows and skylights that keep you connected to the outdoors.
Multiple windows
Multiple windows offer a connection to the outdoors
Rudolph never agreed with the idea that UMass Dartmouth was built to be a commuter school. His goal was to bring everyone together here. Some of the most successful spaces in the buildings are the lobbies in the Group I and Group II buildings. These were intended as gathering places for faculty and students where they could meet and engage one another. They also offer some great views of the campus through the windows. All of the lounges are split level, with stairways, elevators, restrooms and sitting areas close by.
Lounges: places to meet and relax
The Group I and II lounges had fireplaces built into the structure that were never finished because of a state law that there could be no open fires in public buildings. These areas were later modified to provide an area to display various material.
Group II Column
Group II column