UNCG Campus Weekly

Campus Weekly is published each Wednesday when classes are in session. In the summer, it is published biweekly.

From Vacc Bell Tower to Jackson Tower, an architectural tour

If you wanted to know about lentels and jack arches and why some buildings’ mortar was lighter than others’, you were in the right place.

“There’s a lot here to be proud of, that’s interesting,” said Benjamin Briggs, as the campus tour began at the Vacc Bell Tower. Briggs is executive director of Preservation Greensboro.

Preservation Greensboro has offered architectural tours of Downtown Greensboro and several older neighborhoods. But a tour of UNCG was their first. And with the celebration of the 125th anniversary, June 17th’s tour was opportune timing.

The tour was led by UNCG History master’s student and Preservation Greensboro tour volunteer Nils Skudra. Briggs offered supplemental information at many stops and helped in fielding questions.

The Vacc Bell Tower, Alumni House,, Foust Building (central part 1892, wings added 1895), UNCG Auditorium, Cone Arts Building (Weatherspoon Art Museum), McIver Building, Jackson Library, South Spencer and North Spencer, Guilford and Mary Foust halls, the Cone, Ragsdale and Grogan high-rises, The Quad, Jackson Library Tower, School of Education Building, Armfield-Preyer Visitors Center (former Chancellor’s House) were discussed.

–  The news that McIver Building will come down drew some “Yeah!”s from the tour. Briggs noted its best features are around the front door, the portico area. “The art is actually really cool,” he said.

– Briggs pointed out that Mount Airy granite is used in many buildings on campus – such as on Foust Building, Forney Building, Spencer. It’s a very attractive, fine-grained granite.

– “Classical meets Modernism” is how Briggs described Jackson Library, looking from the Jackson lawn. Designed a few years earlier, the front would have been Classical – designed a few years later, it would have been all-Modernist, he said. Jackson Library was designed by Northup and O’Brien, who also designed Graylen in Winston-Salem.

– The later Tower addition, an example of Brutalism, was designed by Odell Associates. Only one other example of their work survives in Greensboro – the (former) Ciba-Geigy campus off of I-40. Skudra noted the Burlington Industries building (once located where Shoppes on Friendly is located) was another Odell project in town. Briggs noted that they took care to not “overtake the view” as you look at Jackson Library from the main entrance. (More about Brutalism in Greensboro is here.)

– Mid-century Modernist Cone, Grogan and Reynolds halls drew one of the longest stops, with a very appreciative look at them. Some alumni on the tour told of living there in the 1960s and 70s. “Form follows function … Everybody gets fresh air …. The trees are the decoration. The buildings act as a foil to nature,” are among the points Briggs made. It was the only Greensboro project of Six Associates, they noted.

– Barton’s Guilford and Mary Foust halls, built in the Roaring 20s before the stock market crash, feature wonderful details, Briggs explained. “Exuberance … a wonderful building … a level of architectural detail that was fleeting,” were among his observations.

– “UNCG is a very thoughtful university,” Briggs said. The preservation of the Quad buildings (a project he described as “stellar”) designed by architect Harry Barton. The preservation in partnership with Preservation North Carolina of the former’s Chancellor’s Residence (also designed by Barton), moved and now used as the visitors center. Several LEED certified projects. And echoing and complementing architectural elements of earlier or nearby buildings, whether Mt. Airy granite lintels, zippers or brick coins at the corners of buildings, jack arches, Flemish bond pattern brick, etc.

This campus has architectural elements to work with and complement – as it designs new buildings – that many other universities do not, Briggs explained.

By Mike Harris
Photography by Katie Loyd and Mike Harris