Inside Mizzou: Campus Architecture

Illustration of the Columns, Memorial Union, new School of Music building and the future NextGen Precision Health Institute

Sept. 10, 2019

When we think of Mizzou’s campus, we often think of iconic structures like the Columns and Jesse Hall. They are a big part of why Architectural Digest recently ranked the university as one of the most beautiful colleges in America. But our campus isn’t just beautiful. It’s also home to cutting-edge laboratories and studios, world-class centers of excellence and the most powerful university research reactor in the country. So how does the university balance its historic beauty and architectural traditions with the needs of a modern community?

On this week’s episode of Inside Mizzou, Chancellor Cartwright talks with Heiddi Davis, director of Planning, Design and Construction in Campus Facilities; and Brittany Smith, a senior civil engineering major who is also a member of the MU Tour Team. They discuss the thought process behind many of our new building projects, and how each addition makes campus an even more exceptional academic environment.

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Moderator: [00:00:03] From the classroom to the cornfield, journalism to SEC athletics, the University of Missouri works 52 weeks a year, every year. This is Inside Mizzou — real stories, real discoveries and real impact of the Mizzou community. Today’s episode is called, “Campus Architecture.” The Columns, Jesse Hall, Memorial Union. When we think of Mizzou’s campus, we often think of iconic structures like these. They are a big part of why “Architectural Digest” recently ranked the university as one of the most beautiful colleges in America. But Mizzou’s campus isn’t just beautiful — it’s also home to cutting-edge laboratories and studios, world-class research centers and the most powerful university research reactor in the United States. Our community’s needs are constantly evolving. So how does the university balance its historic beauty and architectural traditions with today’s necessities? Joining Chancellor Cartwright to talk more about this are: Heiddi Davis, director of Campus Facilities’ Planning, Design and Construction; and Brittany Smith, a civil engineering student with a minor in architectural studies. Brittany is also a member of the Mizzou Tour Team and is Skyping in today from Wisconsin. Thank you all for joining us.

Everyone: [00:01:18] Happy to be here.

Brittany Smith: [00:01:20] I’m excited to be here.

Moderator: [00:01:21] So I want to start by discussing some of the building projects happening on campus right now. Chancellor Cartwright, last June, we celebrate the groundbreaking of the revolutionary NextGen Precision Health Institute. This fall, we’re going to be celebrating the grand opening of Mizzou’s New School of Music building. Why are innovative, state-of-the-art spaces like these essential for our campus community and the people Mizzou serves?

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:01:43] You know, it’s really a great opportunity for us to celebrate all the great things we’re doing here at Mizzou. I often talk about the fact that great scholars deserve great spaces. And those scholars are our faculty, our students, our staff. They’re all people working towards something much bigger than what they could do individually. NextGen Precision Health Institute is one of those, right? It’s that we’re looking at a facility where we’re bringing together medicine, arts and science vet med, engineering, agriculture all together in a way that allows us to really leverage the capabilities of all of those different disciplines to do something much bigger for society than we might be able to do individually. Connecting that with the rest of the university is critical. And so how do you then take those advances and work with public health and work with nursing and work with human and environmental sciences? Communicating it through journalism, communicating it in every way possible with our communications teams. How do we bring together people who are interested in the social impacts of these advances? Those are what we’re going to enable with the right types of spaces, is allowing us to bring those people together, be able to help to advance something, and, you know, in our case that we’re looking at oncology, we’re looking at vascular disease and we’re looking at neurological diseases. And we want to be able to think collectively about how we could how we can best impact that. But we’re not just limited to that, Right? The new music building is a remarkable facility. Again, to me, reflecting the great scholars that we have. Right? If you look at our composition program, it is fabulous. And we’ve been lucky enough to have the support of the community in that composition program to where we are now one of the best in the world in that area. And we need to have spaces that allow people to explore and do even more and be more creative than they are already. And added to that, we also have opened a plant growth facility for the people in plant sciences who arguably are one of the best groups in the world in plant science research. And they then were able will be able to do things that they couldn’t do otherwise. And that’s what this is about, is how do we provide those spaces for the education opportunities for the researchers and the scholars? And then how do we also ensure that they are available to the public and allow us to continue to interact with the public in ways that are beneficial? So it’s all of that together that allows us to do the things we want to do and serve the entire community around the state. And, of course, across the world.

Moderator: [00:04:38] Oh, no. Most definitely. Spaces are very important. And I also think when it comes to scholars, they’re almost even more important, I would say. And so, Heidi, let’s dive a little deeper into the planning and implementation process for new buildings. How do we protect the iconic character of Mizzou while still moving Mizzou forward?

Heiddi Davis : [00:04:59] Well, one of the things that is particularly interesting on this campus is that the iconic character of campus isn’t just about the buildings. It’s about how the buildings connect together and are open spaces. So buildings. You know, the historic nature of buildings we need to look at strategically in the context of the greater whole. So that’s where we have our MU master plan, where we look at how the network of buildings fit together. So as we’re planning new facilities like NextGen Precision Health Institute, we’re looking at how that creates a broader context of that space. One of the things I think it’s really interesting about our campus is the walkability of the campus. So we, that’s very iconic. And I hear that from people that have been to other institutions that they really like being able to walk from one place to another. So the iconic character. We look at the building itself, but we’re looking at the surrounding context as well.

Moderator: [00:06:01] So you mentioned walkability. Is there anything else special that you and your team have to take into consideration when planning a new building that people might not know about?

Heiddi Davis : [00:06:11] Oh, yeah. That one of the things that people are interested in is we have an MU Design Principles and this is a document that is available for anybody. But it’s primarily our audiences are architects and engineers that we hire to design our new buildings and our additions and renovations. It starts with the lens of the master plan, but then it outlines the architectural characteristics that we’re interested in to create that holistic environment. But we also look at principles such as human scale and transparency, accessibility, sustainability. And then also for each building, we want to make sure that it’s connected to the exterior spaces.

Moderator: [00:06:59] Okay. No, no, that’s very interesting is something I definitely never thought about. So, Brittany, as a part of the tour team, your job is to show off Mizzou to potential students and visitors. First of all, what are some of the places and resources you think are important for people to see and understand?

Brittany Smith: [00:07:16] I think that’s such a fun question to pose because it is something that varies from person to person. And when you get on campus, you get this wonderful feeling overall. A lot of what Heiddi was talking about, that in addition to the buildings, it is the space and the way the space essentially makes you feel as an architectural principle, but specifically into buildings, I think if you were to only give these students three buildings to look at and to understand, to be successful in that initial joining the Mizzou family phase, it would be Jesse Hall, the Student Success Center and the student center. I think you start at Jesse as the heart of our campus. It is the tallest point in all of Columbia. And for me, when I was new to campus, I had been there once prior and I just knew that I had to look for the point of Jessie Hall and I at least know I was walking to the center of campus. And from there, I could find a tour guide or an administrator or someone there willing to help me with whatever the next step I needed was. And then the Student Success Center, I think is really unique because it has many of our student resources that bring Mizzou’s culture alive. It employs students to help students. And I think that’s a really nice thing to have. And it’s also, again, when you’re in that freshman year, college is an adjustment and you are learning new classes and new things. So if you can find that place on Lowry Mall and step in and get that assistance right away, you’re bound to be more successful. And then finally, the Student Center, I think is the best image we can give students on their tour. It’s because within that building, you have the Center for Student Involvement. So, CSI upstairs where students can find those groups. Downstairs, you have a lot of our student resources and multicultural groups. And then within it’s just the place to hang out. It’s the place to be. I love to go sit with friends there. It’s so multipurpose. Between studying, practicing for presentations, having meeting rooms, whatever it is, the student center is really that culmination of everything that Mizzou culture is.

Heiddi Davis : [00:09:33] If I could just add something to what Brittany said, I think that that’s key. It’s not just about the buildings, it’s what’s happening in the buildings and how they connect together. And that’s one of the principles that we always look at. Again, we want a beautiful, aesthetically pleasing campus, but it’s about what’s happening and it’s about the people that use those buildings.

Brittany Smith: [00:09:56] Absolutely.

Moderator: [00:09:58] So building on that Brittany, how do you show potential students that campus can become home to them?

Brittany Smith: [00:10:05] Honestly, I think the best time I do that is when I’m not talking. I love to talk to the group and show them as much as I can. But there are a few times in my tour where my favorite thing to do is look at the group and say, “OK, I’m a turn around and this is your one, two minute break from hearing my voice and just look around.” We have some really awesome snapshots of Mizzou campus culture. And like Heidi was saying, this campus is a campus, but the students really make it a home. So if you can take the time to see one person that you relate to, whether they’re sitting on your computer, playing a video game or talking to friends or grabbing a burger or whatever it is, that’s where the students really get that relationship with the campus, because at the end of the day, they might not see me ever again, but they are going to be one of these people and one of these Tigers who is using these spaces. So I just try and let them experience a connection wherever it is, whatever it is. And most of the time, it’s the students walking around campus that give them to that to those prospective students.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:11:16] You know, I just want to follow on what Brittany is saying also on that, I tell the story, you know, when I was interviewing for this job and really thinking about whether I should come here or not, I remember walking on campus by myself and recognizing at that point, because no one knew who I was at that point and they didn’t know I was here. And just being able to walk around campus, look at all the things that are on campus and you recognize the beauty that’s here. And what she said is so true is that you can see yourself here and then you recognize this is the right place for me. So that’s really remarkable that you would think of it that way, Brittany. So thanks for doing that with all of our guests.

Brittany Smith: [00:12:00] Of course!

Moderator: [00:12:01] I remember as a student, the only university I toured was Mizzou. I think there was a reason that that was the case. I visited Mizzou’s campus and it was, it wasn’t so much automatic, but I definitely felt like, it felt like home, even though I’d never been before. So that’s that’s definitely a true statement or something I can at least relate to.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:12:22] You know, it’s one of the things that we, one of the principles we follow in our enrollment efforts, and that is that we feel very strongly that if we can get people to visit this campus, they’ll come here. We just need them to come here and see what the campus is like. Talk to our students, faculty, staff when they’re walking around, see the beautiful places. I love what Heiddi said about it’s not just the internal spaces, but it’s also the external spaces and how people can see themselves being able to be here and enjoying it and feeling very much, like you said, at home on this on this incredible campus.

Brittany Smith: [00:12:58] Chancellor Cartwright, I couldn’t agree more. I actually visited I want to say eight universities and I refused to step foot on the University of Missouri’s campus because my older sister goes to school here. And I said, “Oh, I’m not following her. I’m not going in her footsteps.” And my parents convinced me and I got on campus and I am an engineer through and through. I’m analytical. I had a forced-rank spreadsheet that was telling me what university to go to. And halfway through the tour, I turned to my dad and I said, “I’m coming to Mizzou.” And he said, “Why?” And I said, “I have no idea.” I just know that I am. And looking back, it was absolutely just a feeling of comfort and a sense of maybe I don’t belong here quite yet, but I know that I can and I know that I will become a member of the community.

Moderator: [00:13:57] That’s a great story.

Heiddi Davis : [00:13:57] That’s the power of place. You can’t describe it. You don’t exactly know why. It just makes you feel. And I do believe our campus has that extra something that gets you thinking about your place in this place.

Moderator: [00:14:18] Definitely. Now, so you spoke about strategy earlier. And so we’ve talked about Mizzou’s Strategic Space Utilization and Reduction Plans before. Can you say a little bit more about this and what it means for the university and its constituents?

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:14:33] You know, I think it’s a, it’s a principle that we’re following as an institution. Heiddi spoke about, you know, some of the things that we, when we’re working with external architects and engineers, what we’re looking for, what we want to have in our spaces and how we want it to fit within the campus. But in addition, what we’re what we’re looking at is, you know, what’s the, what’s the current status of buildings on campus? Can they be renovated? Or is it a better option for us to think about maybe taking that building offline and then building new spaces that allow our faculty, our students, our staff to be more creative, to be, to have the spaces that they deserve – that we talked about with the music building and the NextGen Precision Health Institute and the plant growth facility, these are spaces that are intentionally designed so that people feel more at home. They can be more creative. And we have to look at our existing inventory and think about, one, you know, are there opportunities where we can reduce it so we save cost, you know, save cost on just maintaining those facilities? Can they be renovated again to make them more usable, better spaces for our scholars? Those are the types of things that we have to think about all the time. And so we do have a plan that is really looking at how do we reduce the footprint of the existing buildings, because we have a number of buildings that just would require so much repair that it’s just, it’s better actually in many ways to build new. So as we bring on those new facilities, we don’t want to continuously grow the entire inventory of all the buildings that are on campus. But we need to strategically reduce the ones that are here so that we then transition to better spaces over time. It’s part of a master plan that Heiddi mentioned, and how do we think really collectively about what’s the best use of space and how we can optimize that space over time? Heiddi, probably can say a little bit more about how we look at space, how we look at existing buildings and what, how do you make those decisions about which spaces it might be best to remove from our inventory instead of, you know, instead of trying to repair? And then that allows us to think about what are those new spaces that we might want.

Moderator: [00:16:51] So what are some creative ways, Heiddi, that you’re seeing this plan being implemented in new or existing structures across campus?

Heiddi Davis : [00:16:59] Well, one of the creative ways that we’re looking at – you talked about connections earlier – that’s really where my colleagues in Space Planning and Management are looking at how can we look at creating connections between different departments or colleges and create that collaboration while also improving space utilization. So Space Planning and Management along with our Master Plan Advisor have toured a lot of our buildings that have what, what is lovingly referred to as the facility condition needs index. I won’t get into a lot of that here, but it’s a measure by which we can identify the condition of a building. So we’ve been going through the buildings that have a high need and those that are more in the, in the let’s keep going with those buildings and identifying receiver buildings and where we have utilization opportunities. And then instead of just saying space for space, let’s see if there’s a way that we can combine people and functions for better connections and collaboration. So that’s where the creative thinking comes in. You’re just not looking at space or the building, you’re looking at what also can be improved. Because in the end, we want everybody to be successful where they’re at.

Moderator: [00:18:25] So, Brittany, you’ve worked on Tour Team and studied engineering and architecture. And so for this final question, I’ll open it up to everybody. But what makes Mizzou’s campus so distinctive?

Brittany Smith: [00:18:38] I believe that the number one thing regarding place and the students on campus is the fact that we are a large state university, but we have a tight-knit campus which creates a tight-knit community. Like Heiddi was mentioning before, the fact that we are walkable and the fact that our campus is very defined within the city of Columbia gives students a sense of place and a sense of belonging and a place to interact at all times. I love to go sit out on the quad. I tell my tour groups all the time about the best moments of my days being running into someone on campus and stopping for a conversation or a bite to eat or to see what’s going on in Speakers Circle. And we have that opportunity because this campus is laid out in such a way that it fosters interaction. It gives spaces to relax. It gives spaces to study, and it gives spaces for everything in between. While still accommodating nearly 30,000 students, which I’m always amazed by. But I think the really unique part of it is the combination of the resources and the diversity that comes with being a large university. Combined with this tight-knit campus and walkable campus.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:20:05] I think Brittany really got it right on point on that one. It’s you know, for me, it’s this combination of really iconic images that you see. Right? The Columns and all the history that, Jesse Hall, all the history that’s associated with that. And at the same time, you can walk into spaces that are in Ellis Library for the students that are world-class, modern spaces, for people to be studying and working together or go into a research lab and see, you know, equipment and instruments that are the cutting edge in their field. And it’s that transition point where we respect and really embrace some of those iconic images of this campus. But at the same time, we’re looking towards the future. We’re looking for what is out there, how do we prepare our students so that, you know, every student here is Mizzou Made and then can be ready when they go out into industry and be, or whatever field they choose, and be successful. So it’s that unique combination in a small space. Brittany said that very well. I like the fact that it’s a large, comprehensive university, but it feels very tight-knit.

Heiddi Davis : [00:21:14] And I’ll just talk a little bit specifically about the architecture. I’ve been very impressed about our campus, the variety of architectural styles, but they all still work together and that’s what we in my team are really interested in creating place throughout the generations of time. If you look at how buildings have have developed over time, you can pretty much tell when they were built. You know, some good and some bad. But you can see the progression and we want to keep going with that progression. And I just really enjoy that about our campus, the big variety and the opportunity to do new things.

Moderator: [00:21:53] I definitely think Mizzou has a distinctive look in general, regardless of really location in terms of city. I just think the look of the campus with it being so walkable, with it being close-knit, with it being an area that you can immediately say that’s Mizzou or you’re even in this area of campus is just very distinctive. And like all of you alluded to it, I think it’s one of the few universities that actually has that effect on everybody that has a chance to walk the campus and actually see everything that the campus has to offer and all its variety. So thank you all for joining us today. Now there’s just one more thing to do before we leave. And so do you all want to hear a joke about construction?

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:22:36] Brittany seems ready.

Brittany Smith: [00:22:38] Yes, please. I’m ready.

Moderator: [00:22:42] Well, I’m still working on it. So…

Everyone: [00:22:45] (Laughing)

Moderator: [00:22:51] Our audio engineer is Aaron Hay. Our featured music is composed by MU Masters student Niko D. Schroeder and performed by the Donald Sinta Quartet. You can find more information about Niko, the quartet and their piece on the Inside Mizzou webpage. Make sure to join us next time to stay on top of what’s happening at Mizzou. Thanks for joining us on this episode. See you around the Columns!