From the Early Days… to Modernism Realized, Wheaton’s architecture has adapted to the changing times. After the predominance of Modernism, Wheaton once again altered its architectural style. Recent and planned building projects on campus morph from International Style architecture to Post-Modern architectural design, which typically incorporates repetition, ironic dialogue between its elements, and purely aesthetic forms. Unlike their Modern counterparts, Post-Modern buildings are more complex and “revive” past architectural trends on campus, such as Greek Revival, Georgian Revival, International Style, and New England Vernacular. Balfour-Hood Center, Mars Arts and Humanities, and the future Center for Scientific Inquiry and Innovation (CSII) all respectfully expand on existing Modern buildings by leaving them intact, yet updating them to create a more contemporary look and provide greater functionality. While Balfour-Hood surrounds SAB, the Mars addition attaches itself to Meneely and the CSII will likewise connect to the existing Science Center.
These buildings’ designs were carefully planned to incorporate interesting exterior aesthetics with a highly functional interior. Each building presents a unique architectural exterior that distinguishes it from its Modern counterpoint. Balfour-Hood has its flying wall, while the façade of Mars alludes to nautical influences through the use of sails and cruise ship-style smoke stacks. The future CSII is characterized by environmentally friendly, “green” architecture, for example, through the use of a solar paneled roof.
Each building’s interior space is designed in response to its utilitarian needs. Balfour-Hood’s interior serves all members of the Wheaton community, while Mars is a creative yet functional space for the Studio Art faculty and students, and the CSII will provide cutting-edge technology for academic departments in Math and the Sciences.
The objects on display in this final section of the exhibition highlight characteristics unique to Post-Modernist style, as well as those that tie into older architectural themes. For example, Balfour–Hood’s white columns, at the Upper Campus entrance, echo the Corinthian columns of Cole Memorial Chapel, while its brick construction reflects the Georgian Revival style.
Similarly, CSII’s exterior will visually reference the surrounding buildings, connecting old to new. The use of brick and glass walls in what will be Wheaton’s newest building will mirror other structures on campus. The development of the CSII puts forward an essential question: How do Wheaton’s polyphonic architectural voices, each on behalf of a different epoch and a particular approach towards modernity, allow the campus to work cohesively as a whole?
This is, perhaps, a question without a single answer. It seems clear, however, that Wheaton’s commitment toward progressive thinking always reflects on the past and seeks dialogue with many voices, in order to move forward. For this reason, the Post-Modernist era evokes the question: What is next for campus architecture at Wheaton?
-Andrea Bravo, Class of 2009
-Eric Brownstein, Class of 2009
-Maria Escudero, Class of 2010
-Meghan Quigley, Class of 2011