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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, June 25, 2024
Ben Golden

Humanities Building due for destruction

Oh, the Humanities Building. You are a massive block of concrete that houses the studies for which you are appropriately named. Since your completed construction in 1969, you have been a cold, lonely home to the studies of music, art, English, and history; all of which seem strangely out of place beneath your sunken temple walls (perhaps with the exclusion of history). Ever since the announcement of your imminent destruction, I have been absolutely enthralled. The Humanities Building at one time may have been a ground-breaking, conversational piece, but in today's current architectural climate it is a blotch upon our beautiful campus.

Upon its completion, the Humanities Building was described as a testament to the ""brutalist"" style of architecture, a style made famous in America from the 1950s to the 1970s, but one that had flourished throughout Europe prior to that.

But this unique architectural design of the building is the main problem that most students have with its construction. Chances are that if one has attended UW-Madison for more than one semester, one has had a class in Humanities, whether it was a lecture or discussion. There is also a chance, if not an absolute certainty, that one got lost along the winding corridors of the confusing, irrational building layout. I cannot fathom just how many times I have had no idea where my class is, only to stumble around Pan's Labyrinth for twenty minutes in a desperate effort to find a buried hobbit-hole of a room on the other side of the building.

A shoddy layout isn't the only failure here. With its poor ventilation, narrow windows, inclined base, and cantilevered upper floors, you might suspect you were in a bomb shelter. The building is simply not designed well for an environment conductive to learning.

In 2005, UW-Madison released its ""Campus Master Plan,"" which, among other things, called for the destruction the Humanities building and other 60's-era buildings to make way for more updated learning venues. Students should be thrilled by this idea, as we are paying top dollar for what are supposed to be top-of-the-line facilities but, as evidenced by this architectural failure, we are not getting what we are paying for.

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But with this, I cannot help but feel there will be snags along the way. Calling for a complete and utter destruction of a massive structure like the Humanities Building requires a massive amount of resources and time.

As a student that has many classes in the humanities, I pose the question: Where will these classes be relocated to? And when relocated, will the new classrooms be sufficient for teaching and learning? Who will pay for these demolitions and reconstructions? It seems paradoxical, hypocritical even, that I call for change, but am not willing to ""foot the bill"" for such a project. However, the responsibility to provide adequate facilities does not rest within staff and students, but rather the university itself. The construction of a new home for the humanities may be a ways off, but the university needs to begin planning and crafting specifics now. The sooner this occurs the better, and the more input students can provide about what they pay for out of their parents' pockets.

We need functional, attractive facilities, but do not need to be drowned in debt in the process of doing so. The Humanities Building is a blotch upon what is for the most part a beautiful campus, but a blotch is better than a waste of money. Improving facilities to further education is a vital goal, but increasing the burden on students and parents furthers a backward ideology, which festers to more of an elitist school system and moves us further away from the American dream of ""education for all.""

Collin Wisniewski is a sophomore intending to major in journalism. Please send feedback to 

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