Scalia rules on Mudd Hall

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Anheuser-Busch Hall at Washington University, in St. Louis (Hartman-Cox)

As if from the grave, the late Antonin Scalia has reached out to rule against the late Mudd Hall, at Washington University in St. Louis, replaced 19 years ago by a beautiful new law school building.

Not unrelatedly, today would be Jane Jacobs’s 100th birthday. My Jane’s Walk tour of Providence’s greatest megaproject (which she would have loved!) is on Saturday at 1 p.m.

I read Peter Dreier’s HuffPost piece on the late Jane Jacobs, “Jane Jacobs’ Radical Legacy: Cities Are for People, Not Developers” – and clicked on a piece at the bottom by a kid from Washington U. at Oxford, where he sat next to Scalia at a dinner before the justice delivered a speech at the Oxford Union in 2008. The article, “Scalia told me a secret about George W. Bush,” on Salon, was promoted as revealing Scalia’s secret view of the brothers Bush, but toward the end, the author, Stephen Harrison, now a Dallas lawyer, adds:

“Wash. U., eh?” Justice Scalia had said, when I told him where I was in college back in the states. “You know, your old law school building used to be gray and boxy. Mudd Hall, think that was its name. Too modern. Very ugly. But I hear the new one is pretty nice.”

The new building, pictured on top of this post, is Anheuser-Busch Hall, designed by Hartman-Cox Assocs., of Washington, D.C. It opened in 1997, with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor speaking at its dedication. Seeley G. Mudd Hall, built in 1971, dedicated by Justice Earl Warren, and now demolished, is pictured below. Washington University has graced its campus with a number of lovely buildings in the Collegiate Gothic style in recent years, especially on its engineering quadrangle.

Here is an interesting piece in the St. Louis Times-Dispatch from shortly after Busch Hall’s opening that debates whether Mudd should have been so disparaged. One alumnus says – intelligently, I believe – that he will not donate to the school until it is out of Mudd Hall. This is another one of those pieces that seeks to defend modern architecture but unintentionally seems to hammer another nail into its long-overdue coffin.

Although Jane Jacobs was open-minded about modern architecture (perhaps of necessity, as her husband was a modern architect), I’m sure she would have agreed with Antonin Scalia on this if on little else.

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Seeley G. Mudd Hall (wikipedia)

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Busch Hall (1997) (Hartman-Cox)

 

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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