Old Main: The Best of Times
University Relations - Communications, UANews, October 21, 2014
What is it about Old Main that draws people to it? Why do University of Arizona students, employees and visitors consistently stop in for a stroll around the veranda or take a seat nearby for lunch? Decade after decade, people have taken photos with the building, planned romantic dates to visit Old Main and even proposed marriage on the site. Photo opportunities have become part of the life of the building.
Photo credit: Norma Jean Gargasz/UANews
For a building first designed by the late-19th-century architect James Miller Creighton, why have visitors retained and even nurtured an emotional connection to the building?
"I think it has to do with the power of place, which doesn't apply to every place — it applies only to special places," said UA alumnus Bob Vint, an adjunct faculty member in the UA College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture and the principal with Tucson-based Vint & Associates Architects.
These special places, Vint explained, are not merely landmarks. "They become a touchstone and an endearing place that gains power over our imagination. They become places that represent something and have some meaning."
Structures hold wildly different meanings for different people and different periods of time. Reasons for attachment could be aesthetic or functional — or something much deeper. Ultimately, strong and iconic architecture has the ability to "move us," Vint said, and that is why people keep return to such buildings. For other examples, there are well-known structures such as the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal.
"If you go to the nearby Circle K or Walmart," Vint said, "it's just a box. The experience of being there is not going to capture your imagination or pull at your heart strings. They represent an everyday commercial experience doing some mundane task. But when you have a building like Old Main, which is the symbolic center of the University, located at the heart of campus, as the focal point, it has a whole other meaning of power."
We asked students, employees, alumni and other friends of the UA to share their Old Main stories. Here is some of what we heard:
Photo courtesy of Taylor Bradley
Taylor Bradley is a member of Chain Gang, a longstanding philanthropic student-run organization at the UA. Evoking the University's fight song, Bradley wrote: "Tell the team to Bear Down. Also tell them to look this good in a rugby. Happy Rugby Tuesday, folks. #chaingang #linklove #7 #17"
On Facebook, Jess Preston Brister shared a story about Old Main. "Years ago, I used to sit on the bench on the second story overlooking the Mall and read or just relax, people-watching between classes," Brister wrote. "I didn't know much about it then, but its aura was a good one and attracted me to it. So glad it will always be there and go on for another 100 years at least!"
Rafael A. Meza, senior director for transfer enrollment and the UA's assistant dean of Admissions, shared this shot via Twitter: "I love the UofA THIS much!"
Photo courtesy of Rafael A. Meza
Travis L. Meador began studies at the UA decades ago. On Facebook, Meador wrote: "What a change from the days in the early 1960s when I attended my advanced Air Force ROTC classes in Old Main! The old building had its nostalgic charm, but the renovations have brought this old building back to life."
Caroline Moher is considering attending the UA. After a campus visit, she shared via Twitter: "Visiting the beautiful @UofA from Ohio with my dad (UA alum). #futurewildcat #4thgeneration #beardown #onmywayua."
Photo courtesy of Caroline Moher
Avid bicyclist Jim Hopperstad shared Old Main memories on Facebook. "I used to race my 10-speed bike around Old Main with my friends. Circa 1970. Good memories for sure," Hopperstad wrote.
Also on Facebook, Jesus Diaz wrote: "#oldmainua. 20 years ago, my wife and I had our first kiss sitting on the Old Main fountain."
Hannah Dooley shared an image of herself with her partner. The image was taken at the foot of the stairs of the newly renovated Old Main.
Photo courtesy of Hannah Dooley
Kyle Cherrick shared via Twitter about his wife of several years. "@UofA Proposed to @ncherrick under a rainbow at #OldMainUA 2007 b4 UAvsASU Fball-She thought we were going to apply 4 jobs after graduation."
In response, Nebai Cherrick (@ncherrick) wrote: "@kdcherrick @UofA Yep! So romantic — it was where we ended our 1st date. #happilyMarried #6yearsStrong #BearDown"
Sketch by Bob Vint
During Bob Vint's first UA architecture course, taken in 1978, he made a sketch of the porch of Old Main. He would go on to graduate in 1982. For the last four years, Vint has taught courses in the UA School of Architecture.
Later, Vint wrote the master plan for Old Main's restoration. "It was a privilege to have that opportunity," he said.
Drawing on his expertise about architecture, and speaking about the ongoing connection people have to the memories and architecture of Old Main, Vint said: "It's a very friendly, welcoming building. It's like Old Main just wants to wrap its arms around you."