(By Jim H. Smith)
For more than 30 years, Joseph Siry, the Kenan Professor of the Humanities, professor of art history, has had a love affair with Wesleyan’s iconic Center for the Arts, one of the great modernist architectural achievements in New England.
“For me, it has been exceptionally helpful, psychologically, to work in and be around these buildings,” Siry said. The 11 modernist limestone buildings were little more than a decade old when he joined the faculty.
Designed and built by the prominent Connecticut architectural firm Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates, the Center was Wesleyan’s first major building to depart from the neoclassical and neomedieval buildings that dominated the campus. The departure was striking and, when the Center opened, in 1973, struck many observers as radically discordant with the classical architectural ethic that had prevailed at Wesleyan since the university was founded, in 1831.
Inspired by the 40th anniversary celebration of the Center, organized two years ago by Pamela Tatge, former director of the Center, Siry decided to chronicle the Center’s development from its design, in 1965, until it opened. His meticulously researched and richly detailed account, “Roche and Dinkeloo’s Center for the Arts at Wesleyan University: Classical, Vernacular and Modernist Architecture in the 1960s,” was published in the September issue of the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians.