You are here

West Gymnasium

-A A +A
1964, Minoru Yamasaki. 101 MN 19.
  • (Photograph by Lawrence Sommer)
  • (Photograph by Lawrence Sommer)

In 1958, the Carleton College Board of Trustees hired Minoru Yamasaki to develop a new master plan for the campus, located in Northfield, about forty miles south of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Yamasaki was by then one of the country’s preeminent mid-century architects. Although Yamasaki never completed the campus plan, between 1961 and 1966 he designed five buildings for Carleton College.

Yamasaki’s boldest design is the West Gymnasium (originally the men’s gym), a massive structure that houses swimming, diving, men’s and women’s basketball, and women’s volleyball. Built in 1964 at a cost of $1.1 million, the structure features a reinforced concrete thin shell roof that appears to float over the brick walls. The parabolic arches that form the three domes of the West Gymnasium are not only visually striking but also serve as functional elements supported by flaring concrete columns.

Yamasaki’s other buildings on campus include Olin Hall of Science (1961), Goodhue Hall (1962), the Cowling Recreation Center (1965), and Watson Residence Hall (1966). He also designed a fourth floor addition to Meyers Residence Hall. In 1965, Detroit-based Yamasaki asked to be released from his contract because of his demanding workload. In 1987, Carleton College posthumously awarded Yamasaki an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.


Headley, Leal A., and Jarchow, Merrill E. Carleton: The First Century.Northfield: Carleton College, 1966.

Hoekstra, Joel. “The Builder”. Carleton College Voice(Winter 2015): 11-19.

Writing Credits

Lawrence Sommer
Frank Edgerton Martin
Victoria M. Young



  • 1964


What's Nearby


Lawrence Sommer, "West Gymnasium", [Northfield, Minnesota], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.

SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.