In 1959 Rutgers president Dr. Mason Gross fired a blunt shot across the bow in the pages of the New York Times in his quest to pass a $75 million bond issue. His plea was as much about expansion of the facilities as adding depth to the university’s core mission of education, culture, and social mobility for the burgeoning Baby Boom generation.
Gross referred to New Jersey as educationally “impoverished” and culturally “almost bankrupt” in advocating Rutgers’ power to make a difference. The funding package passed and its impact on the Newark campus with construction of seven new buildings over the course of the 1960s was profound.
Part of that legacy—the Newark campus’s inventory of significant modernist architecture and spatial concept—is the subject of an exhibit opening October 15 at the John Cotton Dana Library, Making a Place: Rutgers University-Newark as a Microcosm of 1960s America. Programming will also feature hour-long campus tours led by Newark-based architects, preservationists, and historians; in addition to tours of the world-renowned Institute of Jazz Studies, located on the fourth floor of the library. For additional details, see: http://docomomo-us.org/architecture_urbanism_rutgers_university_newark
Cultural historian Dr. Eva Giloi, an associate professor of history at Rutgers University-Newark who is organizing the festivities, said Newark figured prominently in Gross’s plans.
“Buildings here were designed and situated on the campus as part of a coherent vision of modernist mid-century architecture, with Dana Library the center of student life and community involvement,” said Giloi. “It was a humanistic concept in the way it used open space.”
The project’s supporters go way beyond the Rutgers community. The campus will enter the registry of DOCOMOMO, the world’s leading modernist preservation organization located in Barcelona, Spain.
Giloi describes the exhibit as a “multisensory exhibit about the campus history and architecture in Dana Library,” using original architectural blueprints, photographs, yearbooks, and other artifacts bearing on the campus and student life during socially tumultuous times.
Dr. Askew, director of Dana Library, said of Giloi’s research, “The campus plan from 50 years ago all started with a library building. Therefore, it is befitting that Dana Library, in addition to being a stop along the tour, also has a central role in this event.”
The exhibit and programs are sponsored by the Dana Library, the Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University-Newark Department of History, The Clement A. Price Institute, and DOCOMOMO, which has designated the events as an official U.S. Tour Day.
Activities this month will be amplified when the fiftieth anniversary of Dana Library gets underway next year.