Breaking New Ground: Paul Rudolph and the Architecture of the UMass Dartmouth Campus

When the first building of the UMass Dartmouth campus was completed in 1966, some thought it heralded the construction of the most beautiful campus in the U.S. Others were appalled by its austere gray style. Whatever the reaction, architect Paul Rudolphs vision for the campus evoked a strong response then and still does today. The UMass Dartmouth Library will host a symposium on its renowned architect beginning at 9 a.m., April 13.

When the first building of the UMass Dartmouth campus was completed in 1966, some thought it heralded the construction of the most beautiful campus in the U.S. Others were appalled by its austere gray style. Whatever the reaction, architect Paul Rudolph’s vision for the campus evoked a strong response then and still does today. The UMass Dartmouth Library will host a symposium on its renowned architect beginning at 9 a.m., April 13. 

“Paul Rudolph and the Architecture of the UMass Dartmouth Campus” will include lectures, panel discussions, a walking tour and an exhibit of the architect’s original drawings for the campus. The symposium’s guest scholars and UMass Dartmouth faculty will consider the historical and artistic record of the campus and probe the deeper meanings of its design. 

Most events are free and open to the public, and will be held in the library’s first floor Browsing Area. A dinner, to be held at 5 p.m. in the Campus Center Sunset Room, requires advance registration and is $25 per person. A noontime walking tour is free but requires advance registration. 

For more information and to make reservations, call Bruce Barnes at 508-999-8666 or visit the symposium’s web site at: www.lib.umassd.edu/sppages/prudolph/welcome.html 

The symposium is part of the university’s “Breaking New Ground” initiative to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Dartmouth campus. 

Rudolph (1918-1997) was one of the most eminent Modernist architects of the postwar United States. His imaginative designs for private residences, educational institutions and office complexes appeal to both the intellect and the senses. 

When he began work on the new Southeastern Massachusetts Technological Institute (now UMass Dartmouth) in the early 1960s, it was not only to design individual buildings but to create a master plan for the campus on its new site. The design is highly esteemed by architectural historians but is often misunderstood by almost everyone else. 

The symposium’s program will feature three morning presentations by guest speakers: 

9 a.m., “Enriching Modernism: Paul Rudolph and Postwar Architecture” with Timothy Rohan, assistant professor of art history at UMass Amherst; 

10 a.m., “Brutalism: An Architecture of Exhilaration” with Helene Sroat, independent scholar in art history; 

11 a.m., “The Master Plan: Its Design and Execution” with Grattan Gill, architect, a former associate of Paul Rudolph’s and a retired professor of architecture at Roger Williams University. 

At noon, Gill will lead a walking tour of the campus, for which advance registration is required. 

At 1:30 p.m., guest scholars will conduct a panel discussion that will focus on the design of the campus and its legacy. 

At 3 p.m., a panel comprised of UMass Dartmouth faculty members will respond and react to the aesthetic and functional qualities of the campus. 

There will be a dinner at 5 p.m. at the Campus Center Sunset Room. 

At 7 p.m., Rohan will deliver the keynote speech: “Interpreting UMass Dartmouth: Paul Rudolph and the Single-Vision Campus.” 

Invited guest scholars for the symposium are: 
-Timothy M. Rohan, assistant professor of art history at UMass Amherst. Rohan received his Ph.D. from Harvard University, where he wrote his dissertation on Rudolph. He is currently turning that dissertation into a book. Rohan has received grants from the Graham Foundation and the Canadian Centre for Architecture. His articles on Rudolph and other subjects have appeared in Grey Room, the Harvard Design Magazine and Casabella. 
-Grattan Gill, architect and retired professor of architecture at Roger Williams University, who was a past associate of Rudolph’s. Gill served as the job captain on the SMTI/UMass Dartmouth campus during the early stages of its design and construction. He also spent a number of years studying with Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin and Taliesin West in the 1950s and worked with Rudolph on other projects in the 1960s and 1970s. 
-Helene Sroat, an independent scholar based in Boston. She holds a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Chicago; her dissertation investigated the significance and appeal of the architectural style of Brutalism in the United States in the postwar decades. She has taught architectural history at the University of Chicago and Northeastern University. 

UMass Dartmouth faculty who are participating in the symposium include: 

-Lasse B. Antonsen, director of the University Art Gallery. Antonsen is the former curator of the Danforth Museum of Art, and teaches in the Graduate and Art History departments. He studied art history at Copenhagen University and Tufts University, and has taught at RISD and at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. In 1996, he and Janine Wong, associate professor of design, in collaboration with Rudolph, presented the exhibition “Architectural Drawings by Paul Rudolph” in the university’s Atrium Gallery. Antonsen also conducted one of the last lengthy interviews with Rudolph. Antonsen’s article on the Belgian artist Frans Masereel was recently published in Harvard Review. 

-Sarah Teasley, assistant professor of art history, who teaches Asian art history and contemporary art and architecture. Her current research interests include gender and sexuality in representations of the city in contemporary Asian cinema, the roles of travel and print media in popularizing architectural and interior design knowledge in twentieth century Japan, and the relationship between graphic design and architecture as practices, professions and media. 

-Cristina Mehrtens, assistant professor of history. Mehrtens holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Miami and a bachelor’s degree in architecture and urbanism from the University of São Paulo. She was a professor of architecture at the Catholic University in Campinas and served as an architect for the State Housing Agency (CDHU) in São Paulo. Her research interests focus on oral history, municipal development, urban space, gender and political culture. She is the author of numerous journal articles, and contributed to The Unedited Diaries of Carolina Maria de Jesus (Rutgers 1999), The Brazil Reader (Duke 1999), and Municipal Services and Employees in the Modern City (Ashgate 2003). 
-Anna Dempsey, assistant professor of art history, who teaches design history and modern art and architecture. Dempsey received her Ph.D. from Columbia University with a dissertation on Walter Benjamin, Erwin Panofsky and German Jewish cultural identity. She has written articles on art and propaganda, Berlin’s Jewish spaces, museum architecture and film and gender. She is currently working on a book titled Artistic Space and Experience: From Walter Benjamin’s Modernist Ideal to Contemporary Realities. 
-Frederick Gifun, assistant to the Chancellor and professor of history emeritus. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Florida in Latin American history. Gifun has received grants for local historical preservation, conducted a land use study of Dartmouth for the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy, and was a member of the Dartmouth Historical Commission. He is currently directing the UMass Dartmouth History Project, which will document the first forty years of the university from its groundbreaking on the Dartmouth campus in 1964.


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