Dana Arts Center Houses Biographical Exhibit

Maggie Grove



Despite the daily use of Colgate’s Dana Arts Center by hundreds of students, few people on campus are aware of the controversy and peculiarity that shrouded the building’s 1965 construction.

Until October 7, Picker Art Gallery, located on the third floor of Dana, will be the home of the exhibit An Architect’s Vision. The exhibi­tion centers around the design of Dana Arts Center and features the drawings and design plans of its architect, Paul Rudolph.

Rudolph, a renowned modern-era architect and former Dean of the School of Architecture at Yale University, received his bachelor’s degree in architecture from Alabama Polytechnic Institute in 1940 before going on to study at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

His proposal for Dana’s design was met with controversy from benefactor Charles A. Dana, the Columbia graduate who donated $400,000 to the project. However, the development continued and, upon its completion, was received by the architectural world with intrigue and, in some cases, befuddlement.

“Rudolph has devised a follow-the-dots game in which every step holds some sort of architectural surprise: the multi-shaped windows, unique room shapes and the various studios are so well conceived that, after two years in the building, I still find something new ev­ery day,” a 1967 article covering Rudolph in an issue of Progressive Architecture said.

Picker Gallery now houses over 20 design blueprints and sketches by Rudolph, including plans for “Phase II” of the building that were never carried out.

Linn Underhill, Interim Director of Picker Art Gallery, says that the exhibit also provides “an interesting look at the building [Dana] as it evolved as we discuss moving the Picker Art Gallery elsewhere.”

In addition to Rudolph’s work, the gallery features an in­teractive virtual tour, appropriately named “An Inside Look at Paul Rudolph.” The program includes information about the history of the Dana Project, which virtual tour guide Charles Hagenah, a Colgate alumnus and former student under Ru­dolph, describes as “a pretty bold statement for a certain time in architecture.”

The gallery also features After You Left, They Took It Apart, an exhibit by photographer Chris Mottalini as a foil to the Rudolph exhibit.

After You Left features a series of photographs of some of Rudolph’s previous architectural achievements that have been demolished or have fallen by the wayside. The exhibit’s purpose is, according to Mottalini, “to pay homage to Paul Rudolph and his work.”

Mottalini says his collection “captures a state of modernist archi­tecture few people have witnessed, revealing the grace of these homes as they stood in defiance of severe neglect and abandonment.”

Underhill was contacted by Mottalini several months ago about the exhibit. She was inspired by how “some people find navigating [Dana] difficult and don’t fully appreciate it.”

As a result, Underhill wanted Colgate to experience this show – to see how this thinking perpetuates negligence of buildings like the ones featured in Mottalini’s exhibit.

“The fact that these buildings were destroyed… is a tragedy,” Un­derhill said. “I just wanted people to understand what an architectural treasure we have here.”

Contact Maggie Grove at [email protected]