By Staff Writer Eric Sousa.
There are very few things that inspire students like the architecture of the buildings that house their education. That original sense of grandeur a student feels as they approach their school on their first day gives them a sense of their last chapter ending, and their new one beginning. It gives them that small taste of, “this is it. This is my home.”
At UMass Dartmouth, students have remarked experiencing something less than awe towards the structuring. But why is UMass Dartmouth the concrete jungle that it is?
Despite the bad rep it gets, the design of UMass Dartmouth was done with care and intricacy in mind. Paul Rudolph, a renowned architect, designed the school of UMass Dartmouth in 1964. It is one of the very few schools in the United States that was designed in the Brutalist style.
Not only was it a style that the architect was hoping would be better utilized in the future, but it was also sound. It was using materials that were heavily available, which allowed a design that could be wrought without worrying about the availability of the resources. Concrete was in high production. It was the backbone that allowed these abstract formations that found a home in nearly every nook of this campus.
The reason for the Brutalist style might seem inappropriate in hindsight, but when one considered his aspirations, it makes total sense for the decision. Brutalism was a popular style in France in the 60’s. Paul Rudolph designed multiple buildings in this style in the United States, including the State Services Center in Cambridge.
The style predominately focuses on being a raw force to be reckoned with. In lieu of commercial aesthetics, Brutalism focuses on deliberate plain design. The monotony to the buildings give them a sort of grim authority. It stands tall, with no bells and whistles, sturdy enough to survive a meteor strike like your own house would survive an April shower.
When one walks through SENG, and looks up at the spiral staircase that juts out of the wall, you get a sense of that raw force. When you are sitting in SENG, and you are staring up past 3+ stories, hearing the cacophony of conversations echo through the exposed floors and off the artistically brutish concrete, you understand a glimpse of their inspiration.
Student’s opinions vary greatly on the architecture. Some students aren’t as awe-inspired as the original architect planned. “It feels like I’m in a prison,” says Jessica Costa, a MLS major
However, some find a sense of majesty in these concrete pathways. “At night the lights outline the buildings, and it ends up looking really pretty,” says Sage Bauman, Biology major. It is certainly a point of conversation, and not as one-sided as guessed.
Paul Rudolph is said to have thrown personal touches of flair into the design of the building. From an aerial view, part of campus seems to be constructed of intrinsic 6’s. Speculations about this involve believing that Rudolph was a Satanist, which has received skeptical feedback.
Another take on this design is that Rudolph had a love of narwhals, and this was his representation.
As a student here, you have undoubtedly had your own opinions about the architecture in these halls. What is the purpose of designing a school with such a lack of flair?
If you’re interested in watching material on it, there is a short documentary called Concretopia which does a great job capturing the mood of the decision.
If you’ve ever been interested in the material, try to find the time for it. (Also, it’s only seven minutes long. You absolutely have time for this. It’s the equivalent of two cat videos, except you’ll actually learn something and disappoint your parents less.)
UMass Dartmouth might not be the prettiest school out there, and sure she might not get chosen first for the school dance. But you can bet that when it comes to a fight, there’s no school you’d want having your back more than the Brutalist intention that is UMassD.
Because, as a reminder, art doesn’t always have to be beautiful to inspire; it just needs to be worth talking about.
UMass Dartmouth, with its underrated love towards its construction, is definitely a conversation piece for any that drive by it. You may not swoon over it, but you won’t forget it.