After the slow, expressive adagio of the approach, one enters the building for a moderato: the diagonal steps and the offset secondary steps to their side lead us to the main floor. These secondary steps set up a provocative backbeat rhythm that resolves itself into the rapid, upward movement of the building’s main stair. The movement established by the central corridor of the earlier building, Science Building I, is reinterpreted with a slightly contracted columnar bay in the new building, establishing a series of paired columns framing a view outward, beyond the campus, down to the Waterworks Park. But despite this brief, melodic continuity established with its predecessor, the diagonal of approach continues subtly into the new building, first with the entry stairs, then as a triplet of walls leading us around a corner and into a large meeting space, a belvedere ambiguously inside and outside the building, with a grand view to the park and a podium awaiting either a sculpture or a speaker. This has its counterpoint in a smaller salon diagonally across a hall, the one we saw from the exterior, observing the space of entry. The corridor has a thickened wall on one side, an illusion of density embellished by the canted edges of the recessed doorways; this wall is a basso continuo of sorts, producing its own, more ponderous rhythm suggesting the large classrooms, and countered by the more rapid rhythm of the offices and seminar rooms on the other side.
This hall ends with another window, similar to the one that terminates the older building’s central corridor. This one, however, looks southward, across a court toward a small propylaeum: a peculiar and slightly mysterious construction with its four columns in the centers of its sides, it’s a gateway welcoming us back outside and around the corner, down some steps, and onto the large terraced space that hosts the west elevation.
The west elevation is what one might consider the building’s major facade, although it has hardly any entrance to speak of (except for an eccentric portal in its base, centered on a massive concrete column, suggestive of the rustication inferred by the entire base). This facade provides a conclusive allegro to the building’s composition: there’s not only a quick recapitulation of all the motifs one’s seen before—the square windows, the fragments of a loggia, the overhanging base—but they are all reorganized and resituated with primary and secondary motifs, multiple rhythms, window-types skipping about in continuously evolving counterpoint, and subtle shadows accentuating the composition throughout. It is a composition that choreographs the eye and the mind.
When taken as a whole, the architectural oeuvre of Werner Seligmann can be seen as an evolutionary exposition of the expressive manipulation of modern architectural form. With their evocative historical precedents, their calculated elevational compositions, and their complex interplay of interior and exterior spaces always scaled for the presence of the individual, the work parallels his pedagogical inventions. What can perhaps be most appreciated in these works, though, is their optimistic commitment to the notion that the merits of modernism need not be wholly lost. In the pedagogy of Seligmann’s work, modernism remains an open-ended project challenging contemporary theories while inviting further discovery.
Introduction page 16
Fig 15 Detail, Science Building II