In the Spotlight

News & Features
Gateway to a New Image
by Mary Stucky
February 11, 2000
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On Sunday at the University of Minnesota, the doors of a new $45 million alumni building will be thrown open to the public for the first time. The McNamara Alumni Center on the site of the old Memorial Stadium is architecturally ambitious. While the building is not to everyone's taste, it's designed to create a new image for the university.

THE UNIVERSITY says the McNamara building is like a geode; an almost formless structure which opens to reveal inner beauty. This structure is eight stories of granite. Jutting off its side, a six-story copper-clad office block. Inside, light fills an enormous public space, cascading water flows down black granite, ending in a pool before a large fireplace. One inside wall is a patchwork of copper squares and office windows. At angles in the ceiling, glass slits what the architect intended as beacons.
See a slideshow of pictures about the new alumni building.
Carlson: When we first saw the design, we saw these huge windows and these light fissures and he actually showed light rays eminating from the building and a number of people on the committee said it fits with our song, A Beacon Bright and Clear.
Margaret Carlson, executive director of the Alumni Association. The $45 million facility was paid for with private funds. The building is named for a major donor, alumni businessman Richard McNamara. It's a building which is evoking a mixed response from passersby.

The old Memorial Football Stadium was a gateway to the University. Likewise, the new building, according to architect Antoine Predock. In a 1997 MPR interview Predock seemed to anticipate some of the building's critics.
Predock: I personally think the soul is enriched in encountering spaces that are an alternative to spaces that we generally grow up with and live with 99 percent of our lives.
It's also designed to impress prospective students and faculty, while convincing lawmakers and alums to give money. University fundraiser Judy Kirk says the new facility will make her job easier.
Kirk: There is no doubt about it. It will be a wonderful boom for the campaign. I'm convinced of it.
There is a permanent exhibition on the main floor, which Margaret Carlson says highlights accomplishments of people connected with the university and offers a trip down memory lane.
Carlson: As you move through into the heritage gallery, you are going to hear Jules Pearl reminding people that there's no drinking in Memorial Stadium.
The 55-foot-high brick archway, rescued from Memorial Stadium, graces one of the new building's angled walls. Some $200,000 in donations from the Class of '42 helped save the arch, which honors World War One vets. It's a counterpoint to the futuristic space, and according to Judy Kirk, a meaningful icon for alums.
Kirk: And that's what this building does for those people. It's bringing them back and reconnecting them.
The public is invited to reconnect with the past and view the future at the new Alumni Center on Sunday from 9 to 4.