Black Mountain and Asheville
Blue Ridge Campus
Lake Eden Campus
Guide to the Campuses
Architecture related publications
Rendering and Model
Building Project (flyer)
Black Mountain College Newsletter, No. 10, December 1940
Black Mountain College Newsletter, No. 11, January 1941
The Decision to Move to Lake Eden
In May 1940, following Roosevelt's address to Congress asking for over a
billion dollars to develop American defenses, Theodore Dreier raised the
possibility before a community meeting that the college would have to
abandon, at least temporarily, the Gropius-Breuer designs. With the events
of May 1940 — the surrender of South Norway to the Nazis; the invasion and
surrender of Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg; and the invasion of France —
the involvement of the United States in the European conflict appeared
inevitable. Raising the requisite $500,000 would be a lengthy process, and
even if the college could raise the money, wartime would mean restrictions
on building materials.
On May 16, 1940, Dr. Willis Weatherford, president of the Blue Ridge
College, Inc., notified the college of his plans to open a girls's school
in the Blue Ridge buildings in the fall of 1941, necessitating a move by
the college. He would lease the buildings to the college for the 1941-42
school year only if his plans for the new school had not materialized by
March 1941. The college had three options: (1) to take a chance on the
failure of the girls’s school, (2) to locate another campus with adequate
facilities, or (3) to move to Lake Eden in simpler buildings which could
be constructed by faculty and students.
The Kocher Design
The college turned to A. Lawrence Kocher, former editor of the
Architectural Record and a proponent of modern architecture to design a
complex of buildings which could be constructed in units by students and
faculty – unskilled labor – working under the supervision of an
experienced builder. Kocher had been interested in the college since its
founding. In 1937, when the validity of buildings of modern design was
being debated at the college, he had written to Theodore Dreier
recommending a collaboration on designs by Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer,
Josef Albers, and Alexander ("Xanti") Schawinsky. He wrote that such
modern designs based on "the setting up of space and activity
requirements...would be an inspiring example to other schools, all of whom
were too strongly influenced at the outset by a desired appearance." (A.
Lawrence Kocher to Theodore Dreier, September 24, 1937. Theodore Dreier
and Barbara Loines Dreier Papers, North Carolina State Archives)
In July Kocher visited the college and agreed to make plans for
simpler buildings that could be constructed by faculty and students.
Within a month, he had completed plans for a building with four wings that
would be modern in appearance and
use both conventional and new construction methods and materials. Had they been completed, they would have provided a
unified campus with most activities except dormitories and meals centered
in the same building.
Rendering and Model Plan
Whereas Gropius and Breuer had located their buildings on the south side
of Lake Eden, necessitating the demolition of the dining hall and other
buildings, Kocher placed his buildings on the opposite site of the lake.
This plan would not require demolition of any existing buildings except
plan called for a building with four wings radiating from a central
hexagonal gathering hall which was the main entrance to the building. A
short wing to the left of the main entrance provided for administrative
offices and a reception room.. A second wing (moving clockwise) contained
an exhibition hall in the narrow segment straddling Mountain Stream and a
library with high ceilings supported by arches of laminated plywood. The
third wing, the only wing constructed, provided for student and faculty studies,
two faculty apartments, a classroom, an
art studio, and an outdoor covered studio. After heavy rains and floods in
1940, the area where the Studies Building was located had been underwater,
and it was anticipated that the use of stone construction and the open
space on the ground floor would limit damage in future floods. The fourth
wing provided for additional studies, a recreation room, counselor’s
rooms, and a faculty apartment.
Although Charles Godfrey, the local
contractor, favored a stone building, Kocher argued in favor of a stone
first floor foundation with the two upper floors of wood frame with an
exterior facing of transite, a corrugated asbestos-embedded concrete
Construction of the Studies Building
The studies wing was selected for construction first because of the high
priority the students placed in private study space. By January the roof was on the building; and the college was ready to
apply the transite facing to the exterior. By February the steel sashes
for the windows was in place. When the college opened in the
fall, the student studies were not finished, and for the fall semester
students lived and studied in the lodges. Pulleys were used to raise beds to the
ceiling and providing for daytime study.
The Studies Building is the largest structure
built by the college. It is 202 feet long and 28 feet wide. The two
enclosed stories provided 61 student studies, 10 faculty studies and
classrooms, and 2 faculty apartments. The ground floor is partially open,
with 112 feet being enclosed.
Concurrent with the construction of the
Studies Building, the college was winterizing existing buildings, and
constructing small houses and farm buildings.
Models and plans for the Studies Building were
published in the June 1945 issue of The Architectural Forum.
Photos courtesy North Carolina State
Archives. Model, Black Mountain College Papers, F.S. Lincoln,
photographer. Studies Building, Black Mountain College Research Project
Papers. Richard Brunell, photographer.