Facilities Management

University of Colorado Boulder

The Tuscan Vernacular Story

After the death of his partner Frank Day in 1919, Charles Z. Klauder's designs for the new campus buildings were approved by the Board of Regents of the University in the collegiate gothic style.

A month or two later Klauder returned with the buildings sketched in a new wrap of laid-up sandstone walls, red tile roofs, and Indiana limestone trim.

He asked for this change from the conventional English Collegiate Gothic (like the existing Macky Auditorium) because he felt it would better relate to the Boulder setting and the more proper use of the local sandstone. The Regents accepted his argument, and the first building for liberal arts classrooms and faculty offices was constructed in this style in 1921.

Fifteen other buildings in the "University of Colorado Style" (Tuscan Vernacular Revival) were constructed between 1921 and 1939. To this day, all Boulder campus buildings have been constructed in the unique style and vocabulary of building materials.

Klauder Interiors at CU-Boulder

The CU-Boulder buildings designed by Charles Z. Klauder between 1921 and 1939 are well known for their exterior beauty. There are, however, many interior spaces which show the skill of Klauder as a designer and creator of aesthetically appealing rooms.

Hellems Arts and Sciences
The dramatic main front lobby on the north side of the building is marred by the inclusion of an ugly 1950s vintage florescent light fixture. But the scale of the space and the arched ceiling of the adjacent cross hall gives a good sense of what it must have looked like in 1921.

Carlson Gymnasium Main Lobby
This is a dramatic space not currently in very good shape. It was much diminished when the athletics trophies were removed from the walls, leaving prominent faded spots. On the lower levels, in the spaces that originally housed locker rooms, showers, and access to the "Natatorium" (swimming pool), there are several remaining examples doorways and openings fabricated entirely from copper.

Some of the classrooms still have significant architectural details (fireplaces, wood paneling), but the important space in this building, a two-story ballroom, was destroyed in the 1954 renovation.

Henderson Museum
The main lobby of the museum and its split staircase is one of Klauder's finest spaces. Walking through the cross hall on the second floor is like a trip back in time.

McKenna Languages
The central stairhall in the older section has beautiful polished stone floors and stair steps. The wrought iron stair rail and newel post are beautifully fabricated. This space is virtually untouched except that there are no longer curtains hanging from the wrought iron drapery hardware. The second floor stairhall can be considered part of the same space. The intimate feeling reflects this buildings original use as a residence for women.

Unfortunately, McKenna's large living room was altered to create a language laboratory in the 1960s. In a small room to the north, however, its massive carved limestone fireplace still exists, boxed in by walls and HVAC equipment, but still visible.

Ketchum Engineering
Although this building always had an "institutional" feeling, there are dramatic, expansive spaces at the top of the stair halls at the east and west ends, where smaller stairs continue up to classrooms on the fourth floor.

Norlin Library
The former Music Room, now the Center for British Studies, is perhaps the finest original Klauder room still extant. Even though it had several uses during the years, most of the original fittings survived (chandeliers, sconces, radiator covers, timber ceiling trusses, stone fireplaces). A loving renovation in 1995 has made this arguably the most beautiful room on campus.

Other spaces in Norlin have been altered or obscured. The third floor stair halls, for instance, have round cove ceilings and floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Quadrangle. Signage and furniture have lessened the impasse of these spaces. Significant architectural detail is still visible in many rooms in spite of massive amounts of ductwork and electrical equipment at the ceiling level.

University Club
The main floor of this building has suffered only minor damage from remodeling over the years. The east lounge has an original fireplace and wood floors. Drapery hardware is still in use in the major rooms. The main central hall is essentially unchanged from Klauder's original. The Club has much original furniture, probably chosen (if not designed) by Klauder.

Baker and Sewall Halls
These buildings are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Housing, and this writer has had little personal experience in these buildings in recent years. There are, however, many spaces in these buildings which have been unaltered since their construction. The main parlor at Sewall, for instance, still has all its original wood paneling.