Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Meredith Hall

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Institution Name: Drake University
Original/Historic Place Name: Meredith Hall
Location on Campus: center of campus
Date(s) of Construction:
1965original construction Van der Rohe, Mies
Designer: Mies Van der Rohe
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Modern/post-WWII (Glossary)
Significance: architecture
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: concrete
Walls: glass and steel
Roof: rubber membrane, 4-ply tar and aggregate
1965-present (2006)academic department building (School of Journalism and Mass Communication classrooms and offices; houses campus TV studio and radio station)

In 1965, Drake University commissioned Mies Van der Rohe to design Meredith Hall, the home for the school of Journalism and Mass Communications. The building is significant for its location on campus, its role in the culture of Drake University, and the architectural significance in relation to other works of Mies Van der Rohe. Meredith is built with a steel skeleton structure and a glass curtain wall. It is a simple rectangle and stands only one-story tall, an example of modern architecture based on mass production and simple, pure form and structure.

Meredith Hall is located at the heart of the Drake campus along the campus's western edge, providing an entrance to either the west or east sides of campus. Within the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Meredith Hall is the location of the local Drake University radio station, which provides listeners with information on campus events and serves as a focal point of campus culture.

The building is architecturally significant due to Mies Van der Rohe's use of steel construction. The architectural celebration of the structural I-beam on Meredith Hall is similar to the ideas Van der Rohe was searching for in the steel skeleton he so admired. The principal component of the idea is the I-beam, which typically is buried within a thick fireproof casing. Van der Rohe's realization was that this invisible beam was in fact the exact form he wanted. The steel member is reduced in scale and refined in shape to be applied externally to the curtain wall as closely spaced mullions framing the window bays and running over the entire façade from edge to edge and top to bottom. This new found ornamental and structural use of steel frame construction confirmed for Van der Rohe the nineteenth century dogma of architectural "truth." The structural I-beam would now become visually present in small scale as a symbol of the new structural reality. Not resting on the ground or basement stories like a column, but hung on the façade above the pilotis, the miniature I-beams stress the vertical, yet together with the spandrels form a narrow metal grid stretched over the surface. Such a program at once symbolizes the broader structural grid behind it and gives the building a sculptural presence while maintaining the buoyant impression of a Modernist façade. Further, the I-beams have no beginning or and thus appear to reach to infinity.


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Last update: November 2006