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Downtown Durham: The New South or Newer South?

(01/02/18 7:39pm)

There was once a time when Durham along with the other 99 counties in North Carolina revered the rule of law to such a degree that the courthouse was its tallest building. Looking at the skyline today, the relatively new county courthouse (opened in 2013)—the fourth iteration—continues to attempt to assert its supremacy. However, it is not without competition. The Hill Building—home of the former Durham Bank & Trust (completed in 1937)—is more centrally located within the city, more vertical in its architectural style (as chosen by the famed New York City firm Shreve, Lamb & Harmon), and now a more interesting place to step inside as it houses the art museum boutique hotel, 21C. More than a symbol of the pervasive power of finance, the Durham Bank & Trust’s Hill Building headquarters was a manifestation of the preeminence of the tobacco industry, which could not express its largesse solely in the architecture of its sprawling warehouses. 

My love affair with Mary Duke Biddle

(01/13/16 7:18am)

The Mary Duke Biddle Music Building (MDB) is my favorite building on East Campus. Built in 1971 by American architect Edward Durrell Stone, it has housed the music department of Duke University since it opened. Such continuity is a rarity on today’s campus. This level of permanence is more than a 44-year fermata; the grandeur of the building is a testament to the staying power of musical education at Duke. Edward Durrell Stone was a prolific progenitor of modernism in American architecture and in the same year completed the East Building of the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. Previously, he participated in designing the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1937 and even the North Carolina Legislative Building in Raleigh in 1963. Mary Duke Biddle was well aware that her funding of the construction would produce a result of which she could be proud.

Walking the warehouse: an architectural critique of Art, Art History, and Visual Studies

(10/17/14 9:22am)

Smith Warehouse is now home to the Department of Art, Art History, and Visual Studies (AAHVS), as it has hastily moved from its former domicile in East Duke at the entrance to the East Campus. Rather than sharing its space with Women’s Studies, the department is now the primary academic wing of a warehouse of administrative offices for Duke University. The department has now metaphorically cut itself off from the rest of the Humanities as it opts for spaces for the functional and technical sides of its nascent Media Arts & Sciences program.