Contact: Kim Brockway For immediate release
Exhibitions Showcase Columbia's History
On Centennial of Morningside Campus
In 1987 Columbia University's Low Library was named to the National
Register of Historic Places, and in 1996 the Lyndhurst Foundation named its steps
one of America's great public places - -recognitions in keeping with the early
vision of former Columbia President Seth Low more than a century ago.
Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of its Morningside Heights campus, two
fall exhibitions at Columbia University critically explore the architecture and
planning history of the Morningside campus, revealing the story not of a
cloistered ivory tower that one might expect, but one of an institution defining
itself within the social, economic, and political context of the urban center which
it chose as its home.
The exhibitions Mastering McKim's Plan: Columbia's First Century
on Morningside Heights and Constructing Low Memorial Library: A Chronicle
of a Monumental Enterprise will recount the rich architectural and
planning history that continues to shape Columbia's future. The exhibitions will
be on view at the Morningside Heights campus (Broadway & 116th St.) from Oct. 8,
1997-Jan. 17, 1998; admission is free. For more information, or to arrange a
group tour, the public may call (212) 854-2877.
Seth Low's visionary leadership not only brought Columbia to the
Morningside site a century ago, but ensured that planning and architecture
would play an integral role in shaping the identity of the university. His keen
sense of the monumental importance of a great university and the civic
responsibility of such an institution was wholly reflected in the master plan
commissioned in 1894 from Charles Follen McKim of the architectural firm
McKim, Mead & White - a firm whose architectural presence is still felt in New
York in the general Post Office, the Triumphal Arch in Washington Square and
the Brooklyn Museum. In addition to setting the tone, scale and pattern of the
campus' development, McKim's plan for the campus established that Columbia's
development would be complexly intertwined with the growth of the city itself.
In a century during which Columbia created itself anew, McKim's plan
has remained a constant source of debate. The inherent tensions between the
original master plan and the New York City grid and issues such as modernism
in design, urban renewal, and preservation have continued to challenge the
University. The centennial of the Morningside Heights campus offers an ideal
opportunity for a critical review of the master plan and responses to it by
Columbia's administration, community, neighbors, and most importantly, its
designers over the past 100 years.
Architectural renderings and drawings -- in watercolor, pencil and ink,
and computer-generated -- as well as archival photographs, personal
correspondence, and models illustrate the birth of a "metropolitan university" on
the former site of the Bloomingdale Asylum. Items on view include plans for both
realized and unrealized projects, and a large-scale version of McKim's plan will
be reproduced on the main gallery's floor, enabling visitors to look, for example, to the south and explore issues relating to that area of campus.
A catalogue, with commentary by curators, will be available for purchase.
--- Mastering McKim's Plan: Columbia's First Century on Morningside
Heights will be on view at the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Gallery,
Schermerhorn Building, 8th floor. Viewing hours: Wednesday - Saturday, 1-5
p.m. The exhibition chronicles the story of McKim's master plan and its
vicissitudes over the course of a century when the vision of the City Beautiful in
both architecture and urban design has seen a remarkable fall from grace and
return to critical reappraisal. The exhibition's curators are Barry Bergdoll,
associate professor of art history, and Janet Parks, curator of Drawings and
Archives at Columbia's Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library.
--- Constructing Low Memorial Library: A Chronicle of a Monumental
Enterprise will be on view in the Low Memorial Library Rotunda. Viewing
hours: Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. The exhibition documents the
construction of Low Library, the first of McKim's buildings to be constructed on
the Morningside Heights campus. A dominant and defining architectural
presence, it continues today to stand as a signature for Columbia and as a tribute
to the cultural and educational values on which Columbia was built. The
exhibition's curator is Hollee Haswell, curator of Columbiana.
For images of the items on view, please call Kim Brockway, (212) 854-2419.