The architectural appearance of the college facilities might best be described as “Contemporary Southwest.” The five principle structures designed by architect James M. Hunter define the architectural image of the college. Those buildings are Rexer Berndt Hall, the College Union, the T. Chase McPherson Memorial Chapel, Ramen S. Miller Student Center, and John F. Reed Library. They create a strong identity for the college and evoke a unique spirit of regionalism with a sense of appropriateness found on few campuses.
“In a vague way, the form of the buildings relates to the spirit of the Indian cliff dwellings in nearby Mesa Verde National Park. Much of the visual feel of the campus is good. Its scale has a human quality about it that is lacking on many campuses.” This quotation is taken from the college’s 1972 Facilities Master Plan. It summarizes the feelings of many people familiar with the college and its role in southwestern Colorado.
Others have indicated that they can sense in these buildings the influence of the structures at the old Fort Lewis campus at Hesperus. There is a general approval that the order, form, scale, material, color, and texture of the buildings is appropriate.
The Fort Lewis campus is physically separate from the community at its location on a terrace above Durango. With one of the most spectacular locations in the world for a college campus, it is essential that the site be enhanced and a sense of unity maintained.
The original structures were kept low to maintain the vistas. Locally quarried stone was used as the primary building material. Other materials were integrated into the structures to provide variety that related to the region and to maintain a proper sense of place for the campus. As with the mountains around the campus, there is a richness in utilizing the same materials in a variety of ways in the construction of buildings.
The order and scale of the structures were also critical elements in the original planning. Buildings with significant functions were given prominence. For example, the library is the dominant structure on campus. Consistent architecture in college facilities promotes and solidifies the distinct image of the college. Congruity of the structures creates a fabric that unites the campus.
During the period of time from 1969 and 1984 the architectural design of Fort Lewis College buildings departed from the standards set by Hunter. The more significant facilities constructed during that period were the Fine Arts building, the Gymnasium, Hesperus Hall and the Anasazi and Centennial Apartments.
None of those structures depreciated the architectural image of the college. Even though they have significantly different architectural elements, the scale and form are compatible with Hunter’s work. Consistency of materials used in those buildings is the crux of their successful integration with the structures designed by Hunter.
Since 1984, an effort has been made to enhance the architectural identity of the college in the design of new facilities and the expansion and renovation of existing facilities. A review of the projects that have been designed under this concept provides the information needed to fully appreciate the benefits of maintaining this program.
Noble Hall, completed in 1986, is an excellent example of a new structure that was designed within the concepts and standards established by Hunter. It binds Reed Library and the College Union, both designed by Hunter, with Fine Arts and Hesperus Hall.
The addition to the College Union, completed in 1988, was designed with respect for the original structure. It enhances the original building and complements the adjacent structures.
A successful example of a major renovation project was the replacement of the windows in the West Residence Hall complex that was completed in 1989. The large window openings were reduced in size. Split face concrete masonry units were utilized to fill the space beside each new window. The proportions of the original buildings were maintained and a significant integration of materials was accomplished.
A new residence hall constructed on the west side of campus was completed in 1993. It was designed in a “Contemporary Southwest Style” with a significant “Prairie Style Influence” found in the early Hunter buildings.
During the period between 1995 and 2004, the College experienced significant building expansion. Art Hall completed in 1997 was designed in a “Contemporary, Geometrical Shed Style” that is sympathetic to the early Hunter buildings.
The Community Concert Hall (completed in 1997) and the Center of Southwest Studies (completed in 2001) were two of three buildings planned to form the “Cultural Arts Complex of Southwest Colorado”. The other planned building is a New Theater / Media Center building. The three buildings will be constructed around a central, circular plaza reminiscent of an Anasazi Indian Kiva. The design for these buildings evolved into an architectural style identified as “Southwest Territorial” and was influenced by the early Pueblo Indian structures found in this region.
Other recently completed new buildings included Skyhawk Hall (1999), Chemistry Hall (2001), Education Business Hall (2001), Student Life Center (2001), and the Ben and Linda Child and Family Center (2004). While these buildings were designed by various local and front range architectural firms, the College was able to implement the standards described herein to successfully integrate these these newer structures into the campus.
The challenge ahead is to continue the enhancement of the college’s architectural image. To reach this goal, new facilities shall be designed utilizing the strength found in Hunter’s work. Any expansion and renovation of an existing facility must retain the character and style of the original structure. An exception to this should be considered only when it would be possible to reconstruct a complete building, to implement the strengths found in the structures designed by Hunter. An ongoing effort should be maintained to integrate materials to develop a feeling of continuity and unity across the campus.
Adherence and commitment to the defined architectural design concepts and standards combined with a consistent landscaping effort will create the fabric that will define the Fort Lewis College architectural identity. The result will be a true integration of college facilities into the environmental uniqueness of southwest Colorado. The design concepts and standards are summarized hereafter.
The foundation for the architectural design concept is found in the work completed by James H. Hunter for the college during the period from 1955 to 1968. The order, form, scale and consistency of material and texture Hunter’s designs are the basis for the architectural identity of the college. There is a definitive relationship between the structures. Buildings that house primary college functions are the most prominent ones on campus. Generally speaking, educational buildings are most significant. Residential buildings maintain a lower scale but gain significance with size of their complexes.
The form of the buildings is generally rectangular with low sloping roofs. The scale of the buildings is kept low to maintain the vistas. There is an overall consistency in these projects that is based on order, form and scale which uses selected materials and strives to develop the texture and color of the campus.
The most significant material used in these projects is the locally quarried stone. Masonry, concrete and mosaic tiles are used throughout to develop a sense of identity. Heavy timber roof systems were utilized in the design of the low rise structures. Pre-cast concrete was substituted for the timber system in the construction of the library. These concrete members were sized similarly to large timbers. The result is a sense of consistency despite the change of materials.
Design concepts and materials that departed from those established by Hunter were introduced in buildings constructed that period from 1969 to 1984. Recognizing that it is not economically feasible to reconstruct those buildings, an effort was initiated to integrate those structures with other college facilities. This effort relies on the individual architectural integrity of each of those buildings. The first phase of the program to maintain architectural integrity was to require that any addition or renovation of one of them would adhere to the character of the existing building. An exception to this policy would be made only if an opportunity arises to completely reconstruct a building to the standards established by Hunter.
The second phase was the development of material and paint standards for college facilities. With a comprehensive integration of materials and the use of a consistent color scheme, the attributes of each building are utilized to develop a sense of continuity with the other structures.
The basis for establishing design concepts and standards is to enhance the architectural image of the campus. Future design work should be evolutionary and founded on the strength of the work completed by Hunter. The goal is to develop a genuine architectural fabric that firmly establishes the identity of the college and its place in southwestern Colorado.
ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN STANDARDS
The elements of the design standards are individually summarized as follows:
A regular or recognized arrangement of the structure shall be maintained. Buildings that house significant college functions and activities, such as library and union, shall be given prominence. Other structures should complete the architectural fabric of the campus. Structures such as service buildings should support the integrity of the principal structures.
To maintain consistency, the shape and structure of the buildings should normally be rectangular. Introduction of other shapes shall be limited and utilized only when justified on a function basis. Roofs shall be exposed above exterior walls. Roof pitches of 4/12 shall be maintained except when constructing an addition to an existing structure. In such cases, the slope of the existing roof system shall be utilized.
Proportions of structures shall be maintained at a “human” scale. Buildings shall be kept low to maintain the vistas. Scale is an important element in maintaining the order of the campus. A maximum height of three stories above the lowest exterior grade of the site will be permitted. In no case shall a structure diminish the prominence of the library.
The fabric of the campus as a whole shall be maintained. Relationships with other structures shall be developed to enhance consistency. Key structures designed by James M. Hunter shall be the basis for design parameters. Those structures are Berndt Hall, the College Union, McPherson Chapel, Miller Student Center and Reed Library.
When constructing an addition to an existing structure, the adherence to form, scale, material and texture of the original structure shall be maintained. The only exception permitted would occur if the entire structure could be revised to meet the standards found in Hunter’s work.
Structural Systems: Maintain heavy timber or concrete structural system appearance.
Exterior Walls: Use native stone for a significant portion of all building exterior surfaces. Other appropriate exterior surfaces including pre-cast or cast-in-place concrete, stucco, ceramic tile and standard and split face concrete masonry units (CMU) of appropriate colors.
Roofing: New or replacement roofs visible from the ground, except the roof on the Natatorium, shall utilize a standing seam dark bronze metal roofing system was selected.
It is not feasible to install a standing seam metal roofing system on the Natatorium due to the size and shape of the arched roof structure. To blend the Natatorium roof with the adjacent Gymnasium, a color coated roofing system was selected.
The decision to depart from the red scoria built up roof system that was utilized by Hunter was the result of several decisions. The first occurred with the construction of the Anasazi Apartments when the standing seam dark bronze metal roofing was first introduced as a cost control measure. Fortunately it blended will with the aged copper roofs on McPherson Chapel and Fine Arts and the painted steel facial panels on Hesperus Hall.
During the design of the first phase of Berndt Hall re-roofing project, the decision to standardize on the standing seam metal roofing system for all pitched roofs became necessary. With the installation of the metal roofing system, it was possible to approach the upgraded structural design requirements without reconstruction of the heavy timber roof support system.
The decision to standardize on the dark bronze color resulted from two factors. The color was already in use on four buildings and it would withstand the ultra violet solar radiation that occurs at higher elevations without fading. Metal roofing systems available in red at that time were experiencing significant fading problems.
Colors: The color schedule for building exteriors was developed to create a feeling of uniformity between the college buildings. There are three basic color schemes:
Anasazi Brown was formulated to blend the painted CMU with the natural stone and complement the split face CMU.
Brown Bread was selected for use on wood structures to simulate the natural red cedar originally used on McPherson Chapel. The colors seem to work well together yet allow for definition. They are not intended to be used together on the same building.
Deep Umber was selected for all building trim and exterior doors. Although not as much dark as deep bronze, it weathers much better than the deep bronze paint available for field use. It blends well with the dark bronze in use on the roofs and aluminum door and window systems.
Two other exterior colors have been used to address specific needs. Where exterior stucco has been installed, a tan color has been used. It is readily available from various suppliers without going through the problems related to obtaining special colors. It blends well with the Anasazi Brown and provides variety due to the slight color difference and texture of the stucco.
Taupe was selected for the metal panels around the top of the Gymnasium walls to blend the panels effectively with the split-face CMU. It was determined that using either Dark Bronze or Deep Umber on the large panels would overwhelm the rest of the building.