Bridging the gap between old and new

January 31, 2013


William Willoughby, professor of architecture and associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, explains the architecture on Tech’s campus. - Photo by Deepanjan Mukhopadhyay

Staff Reporter


When architecture professor William Willoughby peers out across campus from the stairs of Keeny Hall, he sees different eras of Tech’s history through its buildings.


Willoughby, also associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, compared the layout of the buildings through campus to the rings of a tree trunk.


“It’s like a tree trunk with the rings of life,” Willoughby said. “As you go out farther you begin to see the more innovative designs.”


Willoughby also said the campus grows in an angle, starting from the four columns behind the library, facing Everett Street.


Willoughby referred to the columns as remnants of Tech’s past.


They are the last few pieces of history bridging now with the beginning of Tech.


The columns are from Old Main, the first building constructed on campus in 1894.


Old Main was a two-story brick building that contained eight large classrooms, an auditorium, a chemical laboratory and two offices.


With the burning of Old Main on Jan. 6, 1936, came the construction of a new administration building, Keeny Hall.


“Keeny Hall, built in 1937, is the era of Colonial Revival style architecture,” Willoughby said.


“The Colonial Revival style of architecture is Georgian or Neo-classical style structures. They are typically two stories with a ridge pole running parallel to the street, a symmetrical front facade with an accenteddoorway, and evenly spaced windows on each side.”


Keeny is the pathway to the different eras in the quad.


“The heart of Tech is the quad, the representation of the history we’re trying to hold on to,” Willoughby said. “The quad connects eras of architecture in one setting.”


Howard Auditorium Center for the Performing Arts, built in the 1940s, is also a Colonial Revival-style building while the Prescott Memorial Library and the Wyly Tower of Learning are from the 1950s and ‘70s.


The library was constructed in the ‘50s and the tower in the ‘70s.


“Wyly Tower was built in the era where the tower of learning was a trend around the nation,” Willoughby said. “The University of Virginia was one of the first schools to implement the tower, then every other school joined in.”


Willoughby also said similar to the Prescott Library and Wyly Tower, the Biomedical Engineering building is an image of the direction Tech is going in, connecting the old with new.


Willoughby is not the only one who has noticed the transition taking place on campus, Sam Wallace, director of facilities has noticed it also.


“University Hall combines current trends with a colonial structure because it is on the Historical Register. Therefore, it had to stay true to the original design during renovation,” Wallace said.


Wallace also said University Hall had some historical significance to the campus and a connection to the alumni, so when restoring the building there was a need to bring it back.


Although Tech is becoming more innovative as the campus grows out into the community, there is still one thing that is consistent, that Tech brick.


“Tech brick is a unique mix of cement and color to create that Tech red seen throughout the brick around campus,” Willoughby said.


Ryan Boma, a senior political science major, said he thinks we have some great looking buildings on campus and they reflect a changing of the times.


“The campus is very appealing,” Boma said. “The blend of new and old buildings gives you a sense of the history of Tech.”


Email comments to kms042@latech.edu.


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