Monday, July 16, 2007

Moos Tower: Love it or hate it?
Originally called Health Science Unit A, the brutalist tower on the east bank of the University of Minnesota campus isn't an easy building to love.

It's brooding. It's concrete. It looks like the kind of place the East German Stasis would have loved to call home.

In his AIA Guide to the Twin Cities, author Larry Millett clearly loathes it. "The architectural equivalent of a Hummer, the idea apparently being to show just how big and bad a building can be," he writes.

Continues Millett, "With their crushing scale and ominously overhanging upper floors, they certainly convey a sense of the power of modern medicine, albeit in a thoroughly unpleasant way."

Designed by Architectural Collaborative, Cerny and Associates, HGA, Setter Leach and Lindstrom in the mid-1970s, the building, which is now called the Malcolm Moos Health Sciences Tower, now houses the UM's dentistry, medical and public health schools. According to Millett, the structure is connected to the Phillips-Wangensteen Building and is designed to be "read as a single structure."

For me, Moos Tower is not without its charm. Snuggle in close, tilt your head toward the sky and the building creates a key-hole view of the world. On a sunny spring day, the Minneapolis hulk also throws angular shadows across its concrete surroundings. I know that's not much of a defense, but for some reason, I'm drawn to the building.

What do you think? (Photos by Todd Melby)


Anonymous said...

I worked in the basement of Moos Tower for about 4 years.

It's not any softer inside. The same pea gravel pocked cement that graces the exterior walls, is also used for the interior walls. Combined with the fluorescent lighting and brown brick floor, you can taste the browns and yellows in the air.

There were a few floors with long walls of windows that offered some great views, but always like an observation tower.

However, I totally agree that there are some unique and redeemable places in the structure.

Todd Melby said...

Great. I always wondered what it was like to work in there. I love the tasting of "the browns and yellows in the air" description. Very vivid!

Ed Kohler said...

I don't like the first impression this building gives of the U of MN for people approaching. It doesn't fit with the red brick buildings that dominate the U once you're on campus.

Andy said...

I work right next door in the Mayo building, and see Moos outside my window every day.

I also have a snapshot of Moos at my desk, emblazoned with the text "ESCAPE FROM MOOS TOWER." The way it hangs there up in the ozone is just terrifying.

The view from the top floor, though, is quite impressive.

Todd Melby said...

Man, Andy. You must really dislike Moos. The "Escape from Moos Tower" sign reminds me of that Kurt Russell movie: "Escape from New York." Maybe he's up for a sequel. Keep those comments coming.

Caitlin said...

Working in Mayo, I rarely enter Moos from the outside, rather via the 5th floor skyway. Though Moos is a huge building, I never feel like I'm in a big space, I always find myself wandering down narrow little corridors to find faculty offices.

More importantly, the Moos Tower main entrances are dangerous wind tunnels. I can't imagine how many frail patients are injured when exiting the building and are thrown over by the frigid gusts of wind surrounding the building.

Bob Roscoe said...

This building was much admired in its early days, but arts criticsm is a moving target. For architecture, a building being 30 years old can be at its most unfashionable status. I call it "Overbite Tower," ironically appropriate for the U of M School of Dentistry.

Anonymous said...

I worked as an IT jerk for the Academic Health Center for 4 years, most of my calls being in Moos and PWB. I learned all kinds of crazy things about the building, like the particulars about the reverse-air-fed fire suppression system and the two service cargo chutes no one seemed to know about. There are also some HUGE office spaces that are used like, once a year - which is crazy if you know what the politics around space are like at the U.

I also knew about an admin-type person who was basically living in her Moos office while she went through a divorce. I found her bag of clothes and toiletries in the server room and figured it out, but never told.

Moos and PWB are definitely a slice of super-70's brutalist University glory days goodness. I loved sitting in people's offices on higher floors while I did software upgrades, taking in the awesome view. Having graduated from Minneapolis South High, (another concrete bunker Minneapolis classic), I felt right at home.

Stephen Gross said...

It's ugly and overbearing, but that's not necesarily a reason to dislike it. Much like the Eiffel Tower (disliked by Parisians at first!), I wonder if in 100 years it will simply be loved in the same way you love your weird, ugly children because they're yours.

Thomas said...

Having spent my freshman year of college(plus two years of choir camp in high school)in the nearby super block dorms, and working for 3 years in the basement of PWB, it is hard to be objective about Moos and PWB.

I do remember that we always referred to them as the Darth Vader buildings. As in, you could imagine him living there.

Anonymous said...

It also seems like they haven't updated the plumbing in the AHC area since 1976 because all of the water from the drinking fountains tastes like coppery-moldy nasty.