Widgets Magazine

Construction on new art department building to begin in summer 2013

Construction will begin on schedule for the McMurtry Building, the new home of Stanford’s Art & Art History Department, in summer 2013. The structure is intended to invigorate the department and strengthen its presence on campus.

Stanford Daily File Photo

The building will be located adjacent to the Cantor Arts Center, and is scheduled to open for classes in fall 2015. Pending the relevant county permits, the first construction will begin in May/June 2013, according to Site Manager Susan Rozakis.

Along with other new structures such as the Bing Concert Hall and the future home of the Anderson Collection, the McMurtry Building will contribute to the “vibrant ‘Arts District’ at the entry to campus,” according to University Architect and Director of Campus Planning David Lenox.

Lenox said the building will also create a cohesive center for the Department of Art & Art History, which is currently housed in a number of buildings across campus. The building is expected to host the art and architecture library, faculty offices, classrooms, student exhibit space, a graduate lounge, studios and a cafe.

Donors Burt McMurtry M.S. ’59 Ph.D. ’62, former chair of the Board of Trustees, and his wife Deedee contributed $30 million towards the anticipated $85 million total cost. The University is still seeking $13 million in donations from other sources, according to Director of Development Programs Maude Brezinski.

The building’s design, which includes plenty of open space as well as two diagonal “strands” of classrooms wrapped around the central library, is expected to be a point of interest for students, faculty and visitors. The design was completed by New York architectural firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, with Portland, OR-based Boora Architects selected as the executive architect. Boora was also the architect on the Science and Engineering Quad and the Knight Management Center.

“It’s going to have character, and that’s appropriate for a building in which we teach art, and we teach about architectural history and art history,” said Nancy Troy, chair of the Department of Art & Art History. “It should be a distinctive, original expression. It will not be a passive experience of space.”

Although the building will function as a second home to the approximately 120 undergraduate students majoring or minoring in one of the five programs in the Department of Art & Art History, it will also be used by the many non-major students who take classes in the department as well as students who are taking non-related classes to be held in the facility.

The creation of a larger space for the department came out of the Stanford Arts Initiative, part of the six-year Stanford Challenge that ended in December 2011, ultimately raising $126.8 million to create state-of-the-art buildings and facilities, of which the McMurtry building is one.

“At a time when the arts and humanities have had to retrench in many other parts of the country and certainly in public universities, Stanford has stepped up to the plate,” Troy said.

“There might be other places that have a longer tradition or are more conventionally associated with the visual arts,” Troy said. “But if you have a choice, wouldn’t you want to be a part of making a place like Stanford over in such a way that the arts are really going to play a major role in the lives of students who come here?”

Although Troy acknowledged that Stanford is not known for its art programs, she said that the current “efflorescence of the arts on campus,” as evidenced by the creation of structures such as the McMurtry Building, will draw students and faculty to Stanford’s Department of Art & Art History.

  • Jon Bell

    A joke from many years ago:
    Q: What is the real reason Stanford students study art history?
    A: They’re all going to be rich someday and have to learn what artwork to collect…

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