Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


West Gymnasium

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Institution Name: Carleton College
Original/Historic Place Name: West Gymnasium
Location on Campus: 321 Division St. North
Date(s) of Construction:
1964original construction Yamasaki, Minoru
Designer: Minoru Yamasaki
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Modern/post-WWII, Postmodern (Glossary)
Significance: architecture
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: concrete
Walls: brick
Roof: concrete
1964-present (2006)gymnasium (men's athletics; currently also houses swimming pool, locker rooms, and athletic offices)

During West Gymnasium's dedication in 1964, the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra gave an evening concert inside the building. Built northeast of Laird Stadium and on Laird field, West took the place of Sayles-Hill as the men's gymnasium. The structure is notable for its thin-shell roofs of reinforced concrete resting on flared concrete supports. The structural form led to coverage in architectural periodicals, and Yamasaki called the roofs "the beautiful expression of structure". Because of the location of the gym, across the state highway from the main portion of the campus, he added that this was "a natural and appropriate use of them."

With the onset of the new development campaign, the trustees of Carleton College decided that a new campus master plan was needed and determined to look further afield for an architect. Minoru Yamasaki (1912-1986) visited the campus in November 1958 and was subsequently chosen by the committee headed by trustee John H. Myers. Yamasaki was charged with designing a master plan for the Carleton campus to incorporate planned new buildings in harmony with the existing structures as well as designing each new building to meet specific educational needs. He was also to plan landscaping for both existing and new buildings. At the time of his appointment, Yamasaki proclaimed "I believe that there is enough unity in the present plan of Carleton buildings that we should not have great problems. Carleton has a lovely site. We hope we can maintain its beauty and, if possible, improve upon it."


Bourne, Russell. "American Architect Yamasaki." Architectural Forum 109 (August 1958): 81-83, 166, 168.

"Carleton College and Minoru Yamasaki." 1964. Public Relations Office, Carleton College, Northfield, MN.

Carleton College Database (2006). Carleton College Facilities, Management and Planning Office. Carleton College, Northfield, MN.

"A Conversation with Yamasaki." Architectural Forum 111 (1959): 111-18.

Headley, Leal A., and Merrill E. Jarchow. Carleton: The First Century. Northfield, MN: Carleton College, 1966.

Jarchow, Merrill E. Carleton Moves Confidently Into Its Second Century. Northfield, MN: Carleton College, 1992.

Jarchow, Merrill E. Educator, Idealist, Humanitarian, Donald J. Cowling. Northfield, MN: Carleton College, 1974.

Jarchow, Merrill E. In Search of Fulfillment: Episodes in the Life of D. Blake Steward. St. Paul, MN: North Central Publishing Company, 1974.

Jarchow, Merrill E. Private Liberal Arts Colleges in Minnesota: Their History and Contributions. Saint Paul, MN: Historical Society, 1973.

Jarchow, Merrill E., and David H. Porter. Carleton Remembered 1909-1986. Northfield, MN: Carleton College, 1987.

"Natural, Appropriate Use of Concrete Shells." Architectural Record 138 (February 1965): 129-32.

Pearson, Marjorie, and Charlene K. Roise, Carleton College Campus: An Historical Survey. Minneapolis, MN: Hess, Roise and Company, 2001.

Soth, Lauren. Architecture at Carleton: A Brief History and Guide. Northfield, MN: Carleton College, 1987.

"Yamasaki Chosen Architect." The Voice of the Carleton Alumni 24 (January 1959): 23.

Yamasaki, Minoru. A Life in Architecture. New York: Weatherhill, 1979.


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