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Brutalism and the Public University: Integrating Conservation into Comprehensive Campus Planning

The University of Massachusetts Amherst, the Commonwealth’s flagship campus, is home to several Brutalist buildings. Similar to other buildings of this genre, they have gone unrecognized for their importance to the campus and their prominent architectural significance. Additionally, due to the ravages of close to 50 years of exposure coupled with limited maintenance and, in some instances, neglect they are now at a point where restorative maintenance is critical in ensuring their future contribution to the campus. This thesis addresses the importance of creating a comprehensive, long-term plan for these buildings, by first looking to the University’s most prominent, yet neglected building, the Fine Arts Center designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Kevin Roche. The research and design hereafter is an attempt to address the current limitations that exist in relation to the building and to address necessary changes that pertain to the revitalization of the building to meet current University needs. A thorough investigation into best practices for concrete repair, cleaning, and protection are explored, as well as possible design interventions that may be implemented in the future. These design interventions aim to benefit the overall conservation of the building as well as maintain a sensitivity to the architect’s original design intentions. This thesis analyzes past design interventions that have been made, which lacked a sensitivity to the original design, and how this has had a negative impact on the building. Architectural explorations as part of this thesis are used to develop a framework for design thinking and to create a model approach. Investigations into necessary upgrades and alterations to meet current code requirements such as accessibility, fire safety, and energy use are all considered. These explorations are meant to merge into specific guidelines which can then become part of a long-term comprehensive plan. This thesis demonstrates that creating a comprehensive plan with a set of conservation protocols as well as architectural design guidelines will help ensure the building's future on the campus. It also serves as an argument that architectural design considerations play a larger role in the context of conservation. This thesis aims to serve as a case study for other buildings on the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus, as well as other campuses around the United States and beyond. This study can be seen as a proactive measure to further prevent deferred maintenance and negate the use of unsuitable conservation methods through exigent repairs. It also serves as a means of preventing unsuitable design interventions, which ultimately compromise the building of its significance and authenticity.
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