“It really hasn’t functioned from day one,” Gary Brown, the university’s director of campus planning and landscape architecture, told On Wisconsin, UW-Madison’s alumni magazine, in a recent story detailing how cost-cutting in the 1960s doomed the building’s longevity and functionality from the start.
Single-pane windows ice up every winter, causing a “waterfall” in the stairwell and standing water in offices come spring. The roofs habitually leak and poor ventilation prompts a long list of complaints from cold employees. The building’s main lecture hall got a new ceiling in 2015 after chunks started falling out of it during classes. Water stains started showing up on the new ceiling soon after installation, campus officials said in 2016.
Despite the building’s condition, taking a class in Humanities is practically a rite of passage on campus. Nearly every undergraduate student takes at least one class there. Before COVID-19 hit, the building brought 5,000 students through its doors every day.
Farther west on campus, UW-Madison is asking for $150 million to begin construction on a $300 million engineering building that would replace the 82-year-old Computer Aided Engineering Center and allow the university to expand its undergraduate student body by 1,000 students. Gifts and grants would fund a third of the initial $150 million cost with the rest supported through state borrowing.