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In fact, it was more. The authors included structures designed by many firms, both national and local. The prose is clear and direct; cost estimates are sprinkled among the glossy photos; pragmatic advice mingles with lofty philosophical goals. Aimed at administrators, the book served to educate the people who held the purse strings.
When I began the research for my recent book, Living on Campus: An Architectural History of the American Dormitory (University of Minnesota Press, 2019), the first source I latched onto was Klauder and Wise. My project was to examine the architecture of dormitories in the United States from the 18th century to 1968, highlighting the opinions of architects, professors, deans, and students, and connecting the dormitory to social and educational history. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2013-14, the United States had 3,039 degree-granting four-year colleges. As an extremely rough estimate, if each one had an average of 10 dormitories, that’s 30,000 possible case studies.
In spite of the ubiquity of this building type, the architecture of residence halls is not well understood. Although I faced a challenge in selecting case studies, by flipping through the pages of Klauder and Wise I could easily grasp which dormitories were state-of-the-art in 1929. I zeroed in on gracious quadrangles at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, which Klauder and Wise illustrated with crisp, legible plans and an aerial view showing Lake Mendota, on whose southern shore the campus lies. And how could I miss the Martha Cook Building at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, with its long row of windows and its terrace facing the garden?
At the time, I assumed the Martha Cook Building was home for intellectually talented young women. My research in the archives showed that hopeful glimmer to be far from the truth. Mr. Cook, the building’s donor, did not want academically gifted women — he called them bluestockings — to inhabit the dorm. He also wasn’t interested in diversity. He wanted well-heeled white women to live in his model dormitory. He even said, “I don’t know why the Oriental girls are there. That building is not the League of Nations.”
In 1929, the authors treated men’s dormitories and women’s residences as distinct forms; the two types appear in two separate chapters. Klauder and Wise noted that even the simplest (meaning cheapest) dormitories for women needed specialized spaces. Women’s dorms required a desk near the front entrance, bells that signaled each room, a generous lounge for hosting dances, a fireplace of liberal size, and a suite of rooms for the housemother. The authors explained how to use architecture to achieve genteel surveillance. In today’s world of co-ed dormitories, co-ed bathrooms, co-ed suites, and co-ed rooms, and the welcome addition of what are often called safe spaces for gender nonconforming students, it is hard to imagine such a hard line between the design of men’s and women’s dorms.
A few other anachronisms appear in College Architecture in America. The residence-hall plans set aside rooms in the basement for trunk storage. In the olden days, male and female students alike brought only as much clothing as would fit in one or two trunks; they would unpack in September and leave the trunk in the storage room for the academic year. Then there is the recommendation that “every laboratory should have one wall blackboard, but in lecture-rooms and classrooms, more blackboard surface is needed.” When I was in the central administration at the University of Rutgers at New Brunswick, I promoted blackboards over white boards, arguing that it is only a matter of weeks before some distracted instructor destroys a white board with a Sharpie. (I was ignored.)
And what about ventilating big classrooms to remove the air fouled by the possibly poisonous breath of undergraduates? Klauder and Wise said: “Vitiated air from large lecture rooms may be expelled through vents contrived in the cast-iron standards of the chair seats.” Good luck finding those replacement parts. In a more significant and urban-scaled departure from contemporary practice, Klauder and Wise recommended that in dense cities, architects design a continuous block of structures in the form of a “rampart” to keep the nearby neighborhoods out. Most planners today would propose the precise opposite. Cities ought to be engaged with multi-use buildings on the edges of campuses in order to create 24/7 street life.
The arrangement of interior spaces was the key to the successful collegiate building.
Indeed, Klauder and Wise themselves worked in a variety of historical styles, from Georgian Revival to Elizabethan to French Gothic, but the authors actually explained that they did not want readers to focus on exterior motifs. In this regard, Mumford did not give them the benefit of the doubt. Klauder and Wise maintained that the arrangement of interior spaces was the key to the successful collegiate building.
While the book is filled with beautifully prepared plans, Klauder and Wise were quick to point out that the plans were not there to be copied. Each building illustrated was unique to its site and its locality; therefore a direct imitation was doomed to failure. The authors advised architects to develop an understanding of the academic program; to create spaces for socializing; to pay attention to context; to consider regional differences. These last recommendations seem so contemporary that they jump off the page — they could easily have appeared recently in The Chronicle of Higher Education itself.