FEATURES • Spring 2003

 

Sam Fox

By Liam Otten

In the late 1950s, Washington University commissioned a young Japanese architect named Fumihiko Maki, then teaching at the School of Architecture, to design a new home for the Gallery of Art, the Art & Architecture Library, and the Department of Art History and Archaeology in Arts & Sciences. The result was Steinberg Hall, Maki's first building and a landmark of modern St. Louis architecture.

Today, Maki is one of the world's most celebrated architects, a recipient of the Pritzker Prize, the profession's equivalent to the Nobel, and he is directing his efforts once again to the Hilltop Campus. In December 2002, Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton unveiled Maki's designs for the new $56.8 million Sam Fox Arts Center, a five-building complex (on the southeast end of the Hilltop Campus) that will serve as a campus-wide resource for the study and promotion of the visual arts.

Named in honor of Sam Fox, one of St. Louis' most prominent civic and philanthropic leaders, the Sam Fox Arts Center will integrate Steinberg with two new limestone buildings—a 65,000-square-foot art museum and a 38,000-square-foot facility for the School of Art—and the recently renovated Bixby and Givens halls, current homes to the Schools of Art and Architecture.

"By bringing art, architecture, and art history into a consortium with our museum and library, we are embarking on a new approach to arts education," says Mark S. Weil, director of the Sam Fox Arts Center and the E. Desmond Lee Professor for Collaboration in the Arts. "Our goal is to move away from separate practices and toward a more interactive and cross-disciplinary training that takes greater advantage of contemporary technology."

 
The Sam Fox Arts Center comprises five buildings; one of the two new buildings will be an approximately 65,000-square-foot art museum (above), which will also incorporate new library and classroom space.

Fox, who has described Washington University as "the place where the whole world came alive for me," is the founder, chairman, and chief executive of Harbour Group Ltd., a privately owned company specializing in the acquisition and development of manufacturing companies for long-term investment. A 1951 business graduate of the University, he is an emeritus trustee and chairman of the public phase of the University's current $1.3 billion Campaign for Washington University. He and his wife, Marilyn, have long been active in numerous business, civic, and cultural organizations.

"Sam Fox is among Washington University's most loyal and dedicated supporters," says Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. "We are deeply indebted to him for his longstanding generosity and his many years of devoted service. The Sam Fox Arts Center will bring together artists, designers, architects, educators, students, patrons, and the public in a world-class facility that promises to become a landmark for the entire region."

Each of the five participating units will benefit from significant increases in programming space as well as the use of shared and interdisciplinary facilities, such as a student/faculty gallery and the 13,000-square-foot Kenneth and Nancy Kranzberg Information Center. Additionally, the art school will be able to consolidate programs currently scattered among three off-campus facilities, while the entire complex, which also includes a sculpture garden and reflecting pool, will be knitted together by a series of outdoor plazas and courtyards.

To date, more than $41 million has been raised toward the project, both through the allocation of University funds and the receipt of outside commitments, including a $10 million gift and bequest from Fox. Major commitments also have come from—among others—Ken and Nancy Kranzberg, Linda and Harvey Saligman, the children of Florence Steinberg Weil, and the Bernoudy Foundation. Recently, the J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation awarded a $1 million challenge grant in support of the museum building. To receive the grant, the University must raise an additional $5.8 million toward the facility by October 9, 2003.

Liam Otten is a senior news writer in the Washington University Office of University Communications.