Paul Rudolph's Modernist Urbanist Center: University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
For the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (originally SMTI), Paul Rudolph created a unified design: an expressive (“heroic”), modernist campus for the working-class students of southeastern New England. Though based on his award-winning architecture for Yale’s Art and Architecture building, many visitors are generally unaware of the campus’ existence: specifically, its architectural, educational, and utopian foundations. This is not true of the architectural community. Rudolph’s design for SMTI exemplified what a distinctive public academic center could be, a standard that holds true for today. Despite the professional accolades the UMass Dartmouth campus has received, the local and regional communities are often unaware of its architectural significance and prominence as an American landmark.
In fact, Paul Rudolph’s “brutalist” architecture is often widely misunderstood. Its concrete facades are often perceived as cold, and too different from the Ivy-colored red brick walls at other colleges. To address some of these misperceptions, we embarked on a community project to educate the public about the campus architecture and Rudolph’s urbanist, utopian vision. To achieve this goal, we developed a virtual self-guided walking tour that focuses on the architect’s intention to create a unique, educational design that singularly encapsulates a sense of place. Located between the post-industrial cities of Fall River and New Bedford MA, UMass Dartmouth connects these centers to the greater regional and national educational communities—and the local landscape of the 18th and 19th-century fishing and farming communities.
Description of the Project: In the spring of 2023, UMass Dartmouth will launch a virtual architectural walking tour of Paul Rudolph's UMass Dartmouth campus. For the first time, the public and enthusiasts of Rudolph's modernist architecture will be able to participate in an online or in-person self-guided virtual tour of the renowned Brutalist complex in southeastern New England. The guided tour consists of thirteen stops located on a virtual map. Each stop is represented by a brief video that focuses on a specific design and constructional element of Rudolph’s urbanist campus. The entire tour is approximately 45 minutes. For those who wish to learn more, additional resources related to the architecture are available along with links to arts organizations and additional cultural sites in the region. As part of the tour’s “launch,” we conducted a series of virtual and in-person presentations to education, civic, non-profit, governmental, professional architectural, and tourism agencies.