McMurtry Building for the Department of Art and Art History to be completed in spring 2015

Sept. 17, 2014, 11:30 a.m.
(FRANCES GUO/Stanford Daily)
(FRANCES GUO/Stanford Daily)

The McMurtry Building, the new home for the Department of Art and Art History, is scheduled for completion in spring 2015, and if all goes according to plan, the facility will open in the fall of 2015.

Construction of the building began in the summer of 2013 under architecture firms Boora Architects and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and the project cost an estimated $85 million. To start the project, the University received $30 million from donors Burt McMurtry M.S. ’59 Ph.D. ’62, former chair of the Board of Trustees, and his wife Deedee McMurtry, after whom the building will be named. Other donors and University funds contributed the rest of the cost.


Enriching art at Stanford

The McMurtrys, who live three minutes away from Stanford campus, were involved in the process of choosing designs for the structure of the building, said Burt McMurtry. He and his wife agreed to make the lead gift for the building after having discussions with Stanford president John Hennessey about the University’s art department.

According to project manager in the Department of Project Management Susan Rozakis M.S. ’88, engaging the arts was one of the eight mission goals of Hennessy’s Stanford Challenge: “Seeking Solutions, Educating Leaders.”

In a statement to The Daily, Rozakis explained that the McMurtrys worked with Art and Art History department faculty, staff and students to realize Hennessy’s vision. The building project was led by chair of the Department of Art and Art History Nancy Troy; the School of Humanities and Sciences; Stanford Libraries; Land, Buildings and Real Estate; the design team and the construction team.

Burt McMurtry hopes that the new building will contribute to making the area of campus an arts destination. The McMurtry building will be joining the Bing Concert Hall and the Anderson Collection for post-World War II American art near the Cantor Arts Center.

“I hope that [the McMurtry Building] will be a real center for visual arts education and visual arts creation at Stanford,” Burt McMurtry said. “And it’s close to the museum and close to the Anderson Collection at Stanford. I hope the whole area will be an arts district.”


Providing new facilities and architecture

The building will house art classrooms, art studios, screening rooms, the art and architecture library, gallery space and faculty offices in 96,000 square feet of space. McMurtry explained that the galleries will display art made only by students and faculty and that there will be no permanent art on display.

The building is also part of the Stanford Arts Initiative, which intends to bolster the Stanford art program through investments in new facilities, faculty positions and art programs.

“The building has the unique opportunity to promote and provoke discourse and creative collaborations between the various fields of work and study housed there,” said Charles Renfro, partner at Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

According to Wanda Corn, professor emerita of art history, the new art building has been a long-awaited event. Corn had been a professor at Stanford for 28 years and is still connected to the university through friends and students.

As the department expanded to include classes like film history and documentary film-making, it began to “outgrow its space,” Corn explained.

“Everybody recognized that,” Corn said. “It wasn’t just a lone voice in the wilderness. The department was behind this. The administration was behind this.

“It has just taken a very long time for the department’s priorities to become the administration’s priorities,” she added. “So [the department has] had to stand in line many times to get [the] building.”

Corn explained that the McMurtry building will replace an “eyesore” building left over from the ruins of the museum destroyed by the 1989 earthquake. Corn, who had been serving as Acting Director of the Stanford Museum at the time of the earthquake, hopes that the architecture will beautify the area.

“This is a wonderful thing that’s finally happening, and the McMurtrys deserve to be congratulated for their lead gift that made the building possible,” Corn said. “And I think everybody will be really relieved when the building is finally opened because it has been very, very long in the planning.”

The building’s design uses open space, emphasizes natural light and has classrooms with views. The two main strands of the department, art and art history, will form two literal “strands” of classrooms winding around a central library. In addition to the extra classroom space, students will also have more places to hang out, said Corn.

Burt McMurtry explained that the design will allow people who are making art to see that people are studying it and teaching it.

“I look forward to [its] being a hub of intellectual curiosity in the visual arts that students and faculty enjoy,” he said.


Contact Michelle Leung michelle ‘dot’ leung ‘at’ saratogafalcon ‘dot’ org.

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