American campuses include the most significant contributions this country has made to the storehouse of architecture. The creation of a world apart that, in the best examples, is still open to the human-made and natural environment around it; one that architecture helps to define as a place of learning, reflection, and community, is a powerful model for how we could build better places. Last week, I commented on two modern examples of such campuses, the U.S. Air Force Academy and Drake University. However, what concerns me is that, with rare exceptions, the movement now is away from such texture buildings and towards objects.
The good news is that some of those stand-alone monuments are quite beautiful, and have their own lessons to teach. After we left Colorado and Nebraska behind, Richard Quittenton and I visited the University of Iowa in Iowa City. There I had a chance to see a project authored by Frank Gehry, FAIA, and completed in 1992, the Iowa Advanced Technology Laboratories (IATL). Designed right when the architect was experimenting with the stack of forms that would lead him to the triumph of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao a few years later, the IATL is a (slightly worn) sprawl of metallic boxes spreading out towards the river.