Ask Abe: Got Flipped, Turned Upside Down

An Alum

Is it true that the building plans for Humanities were accidentally flipped, and the building was built upside down?

Abe

Of the many theories behind why the George L. Mosse Humanities Building looks the way it does, this is one of our favorites (perhaps because it reminds us of this). Unfortunately, it’s not true. Humanities turned out exactly how architect Harry Weese, who also designed much of the Washington Metro System, had intended. A similar myth that Badgers hold about the building is that it was built facing the wrong way — that the side facing Park Street was meant to be the back, and the open area facing the Chazen Museum of Art was supposed to be the front. Again, not true. Perhaps the most prevalent myth is that Humanities was built to be “riot proof” — that the mazelike layout would prevent congregating, and the slanted walls would allow law enforcement to quickly scale the sides of the building. This theory makes the most sense because the building project took place during the peak of the Vietnam War (and the subsequent protests on the UW campus and across the country). However, the truth behind Humanities’ bunker-like façade lies in Brutalist architecture, a design movement of the sixties and early seventies.