Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Demolition::The BYU Alumni House

Another wrecking ball was raised this morning when Brigham Young University began the demolition of the Alumi House. The center of fundraisings, Alumni Relations, and the coordinated pick up of caps and gowns for two generations, this beautiful 1962 building is now half in rubble. BYU’s board doesn’t allow a building to be built without the destruction of another. I suppose this is to keep campus in a small foot print, but it has made for a continual churn through architectural styles and periods. Few buildings withstand the onslaught of progress. The Maesar building stands as one of the few edifices to receive a remodel instead of a razing. It was a close call for the Maesar, which stands on the edge of the hill overlooking Provo. Can you imagine campus without the glorious marble of the Maesar?

I was deeply saddened when the Smith Family Living Center was demolished several years ago: the mosaic covered exterior columns, the terrazzo floors, the low step down lounge with its clean-lined couches on elegant legs. Yeah, it was a funny building, but it was gorgeous. I wish there was a way to retrofit these buildings to serve the needs of campus instead of a policy of raze-as-we-go. Is the new building with its underground parking and roman arches interesting? Sure. Although I think the exterior of the building is kind of hack-ish, the interior spaces are somewhat redeeming. However, the new building will never equal the elegance of the SFLC.

So this morning, as a dedication to the grinding wheel of progress, I present these pictures of the Alumni House, taken hours before the dust started to rise:

Note the two story entrace, including the windows that perfectly reflect Rock Canyon.

The South facing reception area with a courtyard. Beautiful cantilevered roofline.

I love the grid pattern of the windows, so early 60s.

I love that this photo shows how you could see through the building, from one side to the other. It gives the person inside the building the feeling of being a part of nature, but still protected from the elements. It really was a graceful building. Do any of you remember going to wedding receptions at the Alumni House? I remember the nut cups.

This picture was taken from the demolition cam. As you can see, the reception area with its cantilevered roof is the only portion still standing. As of 9:30 this morning the remainder of the building had already been demolished.

Here is the architectural rendering of the new Alumni House:

BLECH. Could it be anymore boring? No, Chandler, it probably couldn't.

Well, at least it doesn't look like this abomination found on 9th East these days. Mr. Carson would be so unhappy.

Not to get too off-topic, but whose stupid idea was this building? What is this? L.A. circa 1987? Who approved this mess? I have some choice words I'd like to exchange with that moron.


Nothing but rubble.


Rachel said...


jon worked at the alumni house for about 9 mos after we were married. i'll have to share the news with him.

my future dream house will have the whole see-through quality like the alumni. i love it when you can see all the way through a building/house. there's a great one up in upper oak hills with this feature.

the new building is totally hideous. i honestly can't believe that that's what they're exchanging it for. it lacks interest, zest, originality. yuck!

and the 9th east atrocity, i'm with you all the way--HIDEOUS!

(i wonder if in 20+ years anyone will revere 1987 LA architecture as the mid-century modern of today? let's hope we won't be eating our words, just like some people are wearing bubble skirts, leggings, and banana combs.)

Azúcar said...

I'm sorry, banana combs are back? I thought we'd gone far enough with the leggings and bubble skirts (which was quite far enough, thank you.)

I think the same thing about 80s design. Since it was the decade after my birth, and the 50s was the decade after my father's birth, will I always hold the same contempt for 80s design as my father does the 50s?

The Scooter Lounge said...

That building on ninth east looks so out of place that a million years from now archaeologists will have to make up stories involving extra terrestrials to explain it.

As for the new alumni house: the rendering doesn't show it, but I'm sure they will use the same yellow-orange brick that every building since the Wilkinson era has used, so it'll fit in just fine. . . just fine.

c jane said...

amen and amen and get that piece of ship off of 9th east and fast.

ps. mr. carson is my real father

Azúcar said...

That's uh, creepy. I still like you.

I wonder if anyone else still refers to it as Carson's Market? I know that The Creamery on 9th is just too long. It's CARSON'S.

Dave, you're hilarious.

bigbrownhouse said...

Do you know Salt Lake very well? The monstrosity built around the remains of the venerable Redman Moving and Storage (or Movies and Stories) Building is totally LA circa 1985.

I thought it was just a tragic anomaly, but now I'm not so sure.

Love your blog! I remember watching in horror in 1991 as the old JSB was demolished - all that 1940's Moderne Meets Mesoamerica craziness gone forever.

Azúcar said...

It may not be an anomaly, sadly! If you get a picture, send it in to me and I'll post it in a hall of shame.

I DO remember the JSB. So sad. I spend so many days of my childhood running around those halls: the lovely lobbies and the unique theater. The institutional green tiles and the long ramp to the underground entrance.

Ben said...

We talk about BYU's (and Provo's)fast wrecking-ball hand all the time. The Maeser and Academy Square (and I don't know if we can really count Academy Square since it was a popular Satan-worshipping site for most of its history) seem to be the only exceptions. Hotel Roberts, The Joseph Smith building, etc. etc. etc. If you are any kind of distinctive building in Provo, watch your back. It's a real tragedy.

googiemel said...

I've just started a blog that's somewhat similar to your own. I'm sort of archiving mid-century modern architechture (most specifically it's fun cousin, Googie) in Orange County, CA. Thought you might be interested in having a look-see.

Orange County Googie Archive

Hilary said...

I was never an alumni house fan. Most likely because I was rejected from many a job from there. It was one of the few places I could inquire at (that my dad wasn't dean over).
HOWEVER, I hate the new one. I also miss the SFLC, mostly because it had a step down lounge and we could call it an STD name.

Anonymous said...

The center window seems a leeetle phallic.
I think it's sad that BYU is turning its campus into Blandsville.