Here are two things I wrote about the area in Tucson where I live (Sam Hughes neighborhood) and work (University of Arizona).
Two blocks from my house is an elementary school built in 1926. It’s a mission style building with a tower in front and a courtyard in back. Its walls, which are thick adobe and stucco plaster, are painted a tan color that looks yellow in sun and orange in shade. The windows are tall and thin, and the trim around them is a rusty red. It’s roofed in red, orange, and black Spanish tile. It’s a beautiful, stately building, solid and graceful.
But it’s not the building I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is the chain link fence surrounding the perimeter of the school grounds. I circumscribe this fence while walking Humphrey every evening and have recently noticed that it has more to say than I initially realized.
On the campus where I work most of the older buildings are brick. Most of the medium-aged buildings are brick. As I write this in the summer of 2010 several new buildings are being constructed. All of them are brick as well.
Why does the university continue to face its new buildings in brick? It’s because many people involved in such decisions, including some of the university’s most powerful donors, fervently believe that proper appreciation of the university’s architectural heritage demands that brick continue to be used.
The thesis I will argue for here is that such people are mistaken. University structures should in the future be built without brick. It is the current use of brick that constitutes a failure to respect the university’s architectural heritage.