Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Centennial Hall

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Institution Name: Bluffton University
Original/Historic Place Name: Centennial Hall
Location on Campus: next to Berky Hall
Date(s) of Construction:
2000original design Strawbridge, Norris Sasaki Associates, Inc.
Designer: Norris Strawbridge; Sasaki Associates, Inc. (Watertown, MA)
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Postmodern, Contemporary (Glossary)
Significance: architecture
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: poured reinforced concrete wall
Walls: brick
Roof: shingle
2000-present (2006)other (seminar rooms, student work rooms, technology center, student lounge areas)
2000-present (2006)faculty offices
2000-present (2006)classrooms

Centennial Hall, the newest academic building on the Bluffton College campus, is significant because it provides a gateway to the campus, is sited in a central location, and is distinguished architecture. It is forward-looking on the interior,with the most innovative technology (Bluffton is among the "most wired" campuses); however, it respects earlier educational traditions in its exterior design and relates contextually to some of the earliest campus buildings. The brick façade, large gable, dormer windows, and extensive limestone trim suggest the sturdiness of earlier classic architectural traditions. It is postmodern in that it is historicist, but in large part it is a straightforward, honest, simple building, reflecting the values Mennonites embrace.

Because it is the tallest building on campus, the architects wisely scaled the building to make it appear less tall, using dormer windows and siding as part of the roofscape in order to diminish the height. And although it has a prominent location which could clog foot traffic, it has entrances from both sides, thus providing an extended campus pathway. Pathways around the building have been emphasized by the positioning of the seven sculptures--part of the Centennial Sculpture Garden.

The central lantern is a distinctive feature of the building and regarded as symbolic. It illuminates two floors in the center of the building and is seen as representing life or learning, two ideas particularly appropriate for the pursuit of intellectual exploration. The lantern also recalls the speech given by N. C. Hirschy at the laying of the cornerstone for the first building on campus. Hirschy, the first president of the college, declared on that occasion, "Methinks I see here the foundation of a mighty candlestick whereon the light is to rest and shine forth. Let this be an institution from which shall go forth men and women who shall be 'The light of the world'."

Centennial Hall is a milestone in the history of the college. It largely replaces the functions of the earliest campus building, College Hall, and is appropriately named, since it came to fruition just as Bluffton was celebrating its centennial.


Bassett, James H. Bluffton College Campus Plan: A Concept for Continuing Physical Development. November 1965. Bluffton University, Bluffton, OH.

Bassett, James H. Comprehensive Plan for Bluffton College. March 1961. Bluffton University, Bluffton, OH.

Sasaki Associates Inc. and Basset Associates. Bluffton College Master Plan: Executive Summary. [Watertown, MA: Sasaki Associates Inc. and Summit, NJ: Basset Associates], November 2000.


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Last update: November 2006