The UW-Madison's Mosse Humanities Building is slated for demolition. Long live the Humanities Building!
"I see the building as being really important," says Bob A. Bell, a local architect heading a loose-knit group hoping to save the fortress-like structure on Library Mall. "You shouldn't tear buildings like that down."
Built in the 1960s and often said to have been designed to withstand attack, the building now houses the university's art, music and history departments. Over the next several years, both the arts and music departments are moving to new digs. The UW Campus Master Plan of 2005 calls for razing the building "over the next 20 years."
Named for famed UW historian George L. Mosse, the building was designed by Bob E. Bell (no relation to Bob A. Bell) and Harry Weese. Bob E. Bell, now living in Dixon, Ill., supports efforts to save the building and led a tour through it last fall. Weese, who died in 1998, was the subject of a 2010 book, The Architecture of Harry Weese, and feted this March at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.
"Weese has been recognized as one of the great architects of his time," says Bob A. Bell, who wants the building preserved as an example of his work and laments the wastefulness of tearing down usable structures.
Recently, a UW-Madison civil engineering class studied how the building could be fixed up and adapted to new uses.
"We're not taking sides on whether the building should be saved or not saved," stresses the professor, Charlie Quagliana. But the students devised ideas for making the building "more palatable" and functional - no mean feat for what he calls "a cold, brutalist-style building."
The students' ideas were presented in late April to an audience that included campus officials. Quagliana says the concepts and drawings will be provided to the campus architect, to use or not use as the UW sees fit.
Bob A. Bell thinks the building's chances may be improving as university finances constrict, especially if the movement to save it continues to draw support. He can be reached at email@example.com.