Officials request funding to renovate architecture building

by Coralie Carlson

After 11 years of planning and waiting, College of Landscape and Architecture officials want to draw up a bill at the Legislature that will bring them a remodeled home.
This legislative session, University officials requested $14.6 million for the Architecture building’s renovation and addition. The current building, designed for 300 students, now serves more than 700.
The House Education Committee approved the University’s capital budget request on Thursday. Next week, school officials will face the another hurdle as the Capital Investment Committee reviews the proposal. This committee is traditionally skeptical of bonding requests.
The college’s cramped quarters are scattered across the East Bank and off-campus, from the hallways in the Architecture building to the basement of Jones Hall to the Dinkytown YMCA.
“We can’t even fit them on one campus, much less one building,” said Tom Fisher, dean of the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.
Proposed construction would consolidate the college in one centralized location.
In 1987, the Legislature appropriated $700,000 to plan and design the Architecture building’s remodeling. Two years ago, the college received another $9 million from the state to renovate the upper floors.
Hoping to raise enough to fund the entire project and deal with the hassle of construction all at once, officials held onto the money. This year, administrators are taking an aggressive approach to secure money to kick-start construction.
Fisher spent Tuesday like he spends most of his days — lobbying legislators for construction funds for his college and the University in general.
“We don’t have a Curt Carlson. That’s who we need, someone who can push buttons in the higher places,” said Matthew Kreilich, architecture graduate student. Carlson is the benefactor and namesake of the new $45 million Carlson School of Management building.
Construction in the late 1980s would have propelled the school ahead of the competition, Fisher said. Because of the delay, the school is losing students. In the past, prospective students have enrolled in other schools in the region with newer facilities, such as the University of Wisconsin and the University of Illinois.
“Unless we do something, it’s really going to cripple our program,” Fisher said.
College officials used an unusual resource to brainstorm for design plans — their own professors and students. In a series of participatory meetings last year, faculty and students gave input for the new blueprints.
Architecture professor Julia Robinson said students and faculty wanted a livelier design. Right now the building is very plain, efficient and minimalist, she added.
“A building has spirit to it. The spirit of the group living in it is captured in the building,” Robinson said.