The Memorial Student Center, 1951
Welcome back, and Happy Thanksgiving! Due to Thanksgiving, this week’s post will be a little shorter than the other posts we have seen, but it will be packed full of interesting information.
This week we will be looking at the Memorial Student Center or the MSC. The MSC is interesting because it has details of Modernist architecture as well as Post-Modernist architecture, so it will act as a transition between our discussions of the two movements. Let’s get started.
First and foremost, we can’t understand the MSC, unless we look at its history. The MSC was originally built in the attempt to allow students a space on campus to relax and come together and has been dubbed the “living room of campus” by many since its establishment in 1951. However, the Memorial Student Center is not simply a gathering hall for students, but it also serves as a memorial that it is dedicated in honor of the Aggies who gave their lives for our country. It is a sacred ground on campus both figuratively and literally in the fact that the grass itself is a living memorial (“History of the MSC”).
The MSC has gone through many renovations over the years, but the most extensive was the 2012 melding of the original Modernist building with the new details in the Post-Modernist style. When the MSC was dedicated on Muster, April 21st, 1951, it was clearly a Modernist building with its clean lines and lack of obvious decorations, but, after its extensive renovations in 2012, it was rededicated on the same day over 50 years later with new Post-Modernist architectural details. The renovations led to an interesting architectural study: a building that contains two obvious eras of architecture harmonized in the same edifice.
We will look at the building through its entrances. There are six main entrances to the MSC, each of which are named after one of the core values of Texas A&M: Leadership, Loyalty, Respect, Integrity, Honor, and Selfless Service (Stephenson). Most of the entrances are Post-Modernist in style, however, there are a few Modernist entrances, so let’s start with a door from the Modernist movement and review what goes into a building of that architectural era.
One of the entrances falling into the Modernist era is the Selfless Service entrance shown in the picture below.
The Selfless Service entrance is not one of the largest entrances, and is thus a little harder to see, but if you look closely at the center of the picture, you will see the name of the entrance placed above the door. The Modernist style of this door is obvious in the lack of ornamentation. There are two main planes making up the entrance: the brick columns, and the large cement slab that they support. The simple rectangular image is very typical of the Modernist style seeing as it is often defined by ornament-free, clean lined facades (Jones).
Post-Modernism is a shift from functionalism to aestheticism, or from clean line back to ornamentation.
I am in a class this semester called Cultural Geography. In this class, my professor, Dr. Jonathan Smith spoke about what he called “The great pendulum of trends in popular architecture”. One era would be focused on placing sentimental detail work and aesthetic decorations in architectural design, while a few decades later the style would shift back to a focus on functionalism by getting rid of any superfluous decorations. Historically, there has been a constant shift back and forth between the clean line, modern look and the more nostalgic decorative style (Smith).
As he would say, Post-Modernism is the end of the pendulum that is more detail-oriented.
Check out the Post-Modernist Leadership door below for a good example of an aesthetically focused facade.
Post-Modernism takes the exposed metal and cement of the Modernist era and mixes it with the focus on aestheticism of the Beaux Arts era. As you can see in the photograph above, the Post-modern style does not entirely break from the Modernist style, but rather brings a few new decorations out of the very functional materials, including both functionalism and aestheticism in one facade.
The Post-Modernist style takes the materials of Modernism like exposed steel and turns it into aesthetic details with no real function other than decoration. The Integrity entrance provides one of the better views of non-functional decorations created by the exposed metal of Modernism.
Directly above the entrance are four metal columns that lack the functionalism of columns. Instead of upholding a roof, these columns do not support anything, but are rather just there for the interesting look.
Another detail to look at are the windows. In the past, windows would need many panes in order to support the walls while allowing openings for glass, but, with the technology of today, the many panes are purely aesthetic. Perhaps the panes are a creation of more rectangles as a reference to the rectangle-focused Modernist style, or perhaps they are simply for decoration.
This concludes our transition post between Modernism and Post-Modernism and our look at the MSC. As promised, in honor of Thanksgiving, the post was a bit more brief than previous posts.
Although we did not go too much into the Post-Modernist style this week, next week we will be exploring the Post-Modernist era in depth with our exploration of one of the newest buildings on campus: the Liberal Arts and Humanities Building.
- “History of the MSC.” MSC. Texas A&M University, n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2016.
- Stephenson, Lane. “Memorial Student Center Reopened After 3-year Renovation And Expansion.” Texas A&M Today. Texas A&M University, 23 Apr. 2012. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.
- Jones, Greg. “What Is Modern: Characteristics of Modern Architecture.” org. A2 Modern, 09 Apr. 2011. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.
- Smith, Jonathan. “Popular Styles.” Cultural Geography. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas. 12 Oct. 2016. Lecture.