July 16, 2013 Re-staining the Art + Architecture Building

The UT Art + Architecture Building, home to the students, faculty and staff of the College of Architecture and Design and the School of Art, is undergoing renovations. Questions have surfaced regarding the re-staining of the building.

The building, completed in 1981, was co-designed by Bruce McCarty and his son Doug McCarty. In a 2004 interview conducted by professor and then dean Marleen K. Davis, Bruce McCarty offered thoughts on the exterior:

I think most people are impressed with the central interior space, it’s the exterior that they dislike. I believe that this is partly due to the weathering of the concrete. Re-staining, to bring the finish back to the original appearance, would make a big difference. It bothers me that this building has not been better maintained (Ewing Gallery 33).

A year ago, in the summer of 2012, a joint committee of the School of Art and the College of Architecture and Design was formed to address the policies of the shared space and additional issues such as treatment of the building. The committee included, from Architecture and Design, the associate dean of facilities and technology and two faculty members, and from the School of Art, the department head and two faculty members.

The university is committed to maintaining and refurbishing buildings across the Knoxville campus. One of the most prevalent issues of the Art + Architecture Building’s upkeep is the pervasive presence of graffiti. Over two years ago, the building was cited to have 400-plus instances of graffiti. It was scheduled most recently for maintenance, said associate dean David Matthews, due to the graffiti being the “worst of any building on campus.”

During the winter and spring of 2013, numerous options and tests explored the removal of graffiti throughout the building. The technique selected was deemed most acceptable.

Shortly before his death, Bruce McCarty spoke with Dean Scott Poole, and explained that the building was once stained, adding, “it was a shame that the original stain wore off.” McCarty further added that the building stain was beige. In January 2013, the Art + Architecture Building Committee agreed to examine options for the re-staining of the building. This provided an opportunity to address both the rampant graffiti problem, as well as return the interior and exterior surfaces to the original look intended by the architects. Doug McCarty was consulted as a special adviser of this decision. He worked with Facility Services, a university department of Finance and Administration, to select the color, locations and opacity of the stain currently being used.

Color samples were applied in January and the faculty were asked to comment and offer technical assistance. They were provided information about the intention to cover graffiti through re-staining by email and at a minimum of two faculty meetings.

The college concluded that re-staining the Art + Architecture Building would maintain the integrity of the designers’ vision and remove graffiti. Re-staining the building is intended to ensure that it remains a place of admiration for generations to come.

Presently the building is being partially re-stained by Facilities Services, which is paying for and overseeing the renovation. It is estimated to cost an additional $150,000 to re-stain the entire building. Funds, through donation, would greatly assist in bringing the building to its intended appearance.

Works Cited:

Ewing Gallery, the University of Tennessee. Selected Projects: The Architecture of Bruce McCarty. Knoxville: Ewing Gallery, 2004. Print.