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Computer Science and Engineering Building

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2001, Ehninger Fetzer and Tholen Architects. 601-689 W. 1000 S.
  • Northwest facade
  • East facade
  • Interior staircase
  • Interior staircase and ceiling
  • Interior staircase

Utah Valley University’s (UVU) campus master plan is based upon the implementation of a mid-twentieth-century idea of the megastructure, which called for exponential expansion, modular adaptable construction, and a clear differentiation between fixed or permanent and nonpermanent elements. UVU’s campus planners were inspired by Le Corbusier’s Unite d’Habitation (1952) in Marseille, France, and some of the architect’s earlier designs in Algeria and Brazil. Here, UVU’s iteration of the megastructure incorporated changes in local topography by requiring a thirty-foot, three-dimensional structural system that could respond to changes in multiple directions. Ehninger Fetzer and Tholen’s (EFT) Computer Science and Engineering Building is a rather late implementation of this 1970s master plan.

The design is faithful to the original urbanist intent of the master plan in its ability to complement the adjoining buildings. The structural module is maintained and accommodates the vertical rise in elevation, providing a cascade of interior spaces that glide down to the lower levels. The design asserts its identity, however, with an arched roof element that emerges from the structural grid to signify the eastern entrance to the campus. In keeping with the modernist preoccupation with circulation, the arch covers not a lobby but a grand staircase that leads to a grand interior atrium. The three-story atrium inhabits the center of the building, providing a student commons and interrupting the otherwise limitless repetition of the structural module. The brightly colored exposed mechanical ducts so typical of the rest of campus take on a monumental dimension here.

The Computer Science and Engineering Building demonstrates the effectiveness of the original design guide to accommodate interpretation, especially in the hands of skillful architects with a certain willingness to work within a system that they obviously respect. More recent campus buildings that vary radically from the master plan are much less successful.

References

Banham, Reyner. Megastructure: Urban Futures on the Recent Past. New York: Harper and Row, 1976.

Jensen, Bruce. A Campus City Creation: A Historical Summary of the Original Campus Master Plan of the Utah Valley State College Orem Campus. Orem: Utah Valley State College Press, 2003.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Prescott Muir
Coordinator: 
Shundana Yusaf

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