Law building’s proposed design spurs criticism

By Hayley Schletker

Looks aren’t everything, but some in Lexington have been debating how the new buildings on UK’s campus should be designed.

Two of the new buildings that will add to the array of architecture on UK’s campus by 2012 opt for different architectural styles: A new College of Law building, whose proposed design is Federal-style architecture, and a new complex for the College of Business and Economics with a more modern proposal.

“Any institution that has aspirations to be in the top 20 should never allow a major piece of architecture to mimic a long dead style,” said Lexington architect Graham Pohl about the proposed design for the College of Law building.

UK should use the opportunity to create designs that “might best express the intention, the vision and the character of the institution and the community,” he said.

In a Feb. 2 letter to the editor in the Lexington Herald-Leader, Pohl said new architecture on UK’s campus should incorporate modern ideas, such as green architecture and more modern materials, rather than the 225-year-old Federal-style that “suggests legitimacy and erudition.”

“Does UK imagine that their buildings must make similar pretensions to garner appropriate levels of respect?” Pohl said in the letter.

Warren Denny, UK’s university architect, said the building’s design is based on a study of the College of Law’s needs. Among other things, it considers the building’s location, near the Taylor Education Building on Scott Street, where it would be surrounded by some of the oldest buildings on campus.

A building’s environment plays a large role in how it should be designed, said fourth-year architecture student Katlyn Dench, so it is not unreasonable for the new law building to have an older style.

“Designing buildings, you always want it to fit in,” Dench said. “While it’s appropriate to keep in mind modern styles, you can pay homage to the more traditional styles by updating them to fit your needs.”

In contrast, the new Business and Economics building will have a more modern design, Denny said, and that style will contribute to UK’s landscape by creating a section of campus with a different feel.

“Most people see them as in the same grouping, but the new Business and Economic building sits between a new dorm that is very modern, and Memorial Coliseum, which is art deco and appears modern,” Denny said.

Some architecture students said there could be a compromise between using modern techniques and traditional styles.

Dara Solomon, a fourth-year architecture student, said she felt UK could move forward in its design while still keeping the styles of older buildings in mind.

“There’s always a way to incorporate a new style if it’s done well,” she said. “This campus is a nice campus, but we’re stuck 10 years behind. Schools like UC (University of Cincinnati) have all kinds of designs going into their new buildings.”

David Stout, a fifth-year architecture student, said the school was taking strides by achieving national Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver certification, but it needs to move forward in design as well.

“This is a classical university. That’s what people are comfortable with. But this is a different time,” Stout said. “This campus needs something new and fresh. This university is about generating ideas.”