"I was really taken by the idea that the Center of Inquiry is really a point of observation and questioning of what should be happening at Wabash and places around the world with a similar mission."
"Andy Ford is really an architect in college presidents clothing. He sketched a bubble diagram on the chalkboard with which he explained that the building should be more outreaching. The circular form he sketched to suggest the core of the building became the seed of the idea that we developed as the rotunda."
"My parents were a big influencemy dad was an architect and my mom is an interior designer. They were very passionate about their work and enjoyed it immensely. We would frequently check out interesting buildings on vacations and my parents would take me to job sites. As I got older, they would let me participate as they were working on projects."
Point of Observation
The view from the Wabash Chapel is changing. The Allen
Athletics and Recreation Center and Knowling Fieldhouse have been in use
for a year now, and a beckoning brick walk leads you there from the mall.
The new Science Center is nearing completion of its first phase. The Beta
Theta Pi and Lambda Chi additions and renovations are completed. The Hays
Alumni Center was moved last summer, and ground was broken in January
for the new home of the Malcolm X Institute across from the Allen Center.
But the building most likely to catch your eye when you
return to campus this summer Trippet Hallthe new home for the Office
of Admissions and the Wabash Center for Inquiry in the Liberal Arts. Funded
by a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. and positioned across from the Wabash
Avenue entrance with a head-on view of the Chapel, Trippet Hall will provide
the first glimpse of the Wabash campus for many visitors and prospective
students. Its guest and conference rooms will house scholars who will
student the effectiveness of liberal arts education and spread the word
around the world.
Who better to envision such a building than someone who
knows the campus from the inside-out? Eric Rowland 86 who designed
the spacious addition to his former Wabash residence, the Beta House,
in 1999, was tagged to create this unprecedented and symbolic building.
WM thought youd like to know more about the man and the thoughts
that went into designing this new gateway to the Wabash campus:
WM: What was your original vision for this building, and how many
"drafts" did you go through before hitting on what we're seeing
I was really taken by the idea that the Center of Inquiry is really a
point of observation and questioning of what should be happening at Wabash
and places around the world with a similar mission. It seemed like it
needed to be more observatory-like. One of the concepts I had developed
which was never presented was to have the building act as a gateway to
the campus by spanning above the drive between the Kane house and the
arboretum. It really was an observatory in that location and ultimately
led to the suggestion of locating the building where it is being built.
Thomas Jeffersons plan for the University of Virginia as an academical
village reinforced the location.
We had already been hired to design a new admissions office when we were
invited to interview for the Center of Inquiry project. The budget established
for the center was very low given the quality of buildings on the Wabash
campus. The third of our design concepts was to integrate admissions into
the facility to augment the budget and prevent duplicity of support facilities.
The two uses really compliment each other well and the idea of a welcome
center was born. From that point the design evolved in a more linear
fashion, with several refinements to the scheme.
Did you try some elements early on that just didn't work?
The circular front section of the building is particularly interesting?
Can you tell me a little about why you made that artistic decision?
What other architectural features did you incorporate to express that
sense of welcome?
There is a large amount of glass under the porches as well. This will
make the interior brighter and more approachable from outside. At night,
the building will glow from within, which will make the building more
appealing in the dreary days of winter. I also think our attention to
classical proportions and symmetry make the building easy to like and
The Center sets directly opposite the College's most recognizable
landmark--the Chapel. How did that juxtaposition inform your design?
Any particular challenges with the project? Did you feel any extra
pressure, or any extra excitement, knowing that you were designing a building
that your former professors and classmates will be seeing?
The budget has been a constant challenge. Weve had to be really
creative to get a building of appropriate stature for the amount of money
the college is able to spend. The slope of the site and making sure that
the admissions staff doesnt feel like theyve taken a back
seat has been a challenge as well. Theyve been very open to change
and will be adapting their work style substantially in the new building.
This would be a challenging project on any campus, but knowing it is a major change to a community that is particularly important to me does compound the pressure. The pressure was similar while I was working on the Beta house, but the thrill of the accolades once the project is finished is also heightened. Ive been working directly with Raymond Williams and Greg Huebner, two of my former professors whom I admire. I sometimes find our former roles reversed. I have to keep reminding myself that the project meetings arent graded and that theyre not one ongoing senior oral comp.
Did you design buildings on paper when you were a kid? When
did you first think you'd like to do this for a living?
Who were the architects or artists who first made you want to be an
architect? Who are the architects you admire today?
My parents were a big influencemy dad was an architect and my mom
is an interior designer. While their projects were significantly smaller
than the Sears tower, they were very passionate about their work and enjoyed
it immensely. We would frequently check out interesting buildings on vacations
and my parents would take me to job sites. As I got older, they would
let me participate as they were working on projects.
There are several architects practicing today whom I really admire. Among
my favorites are Santiago Calatrava, Frank Gehry and Fay Jones. Calatrava
is a Spanish architect whose work is a very clear articulation of structural
forces. He has done a number of bridges and airports, and has recently
completed an addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum. Gehrys work is
better known here since he is an American architect. His work is very
fluid in form and is often composed of fascinating sculptural forms. His
work is primarily commercial buildings and museums, with his most significant
building being the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Both architects
produce work unlike any other and their work could only be conceived and
built using the technology available today. It pushes the envelope of
what a building should be.
What design of your own has been your favorite?
Im currently working on a very contemporary gallery building to be built at the corner of 10th and Delaware within the St. Joseph historic district in Indianapolis. Galleries offer an opportunity to be a bit more sculptural and the historic neighborhood imposes some restrictions, so that has been a fascinating project. I think the client is as important to my satisfaction as the end product, so I really enjoy working on projects where the owner is directly involved, doesnt have preconceived notions about the design solution, and wants the architecture to be distinctive and functional.
It was well received, but it blew down on its first day! I hoped I would
have an opportunity to do something more permanent in the future at Wabash!