Architecture of GCU: The past meets the future

August 09, 2019 / by / 0 Comment

The future meets the past in the architectural design of GCU’s buildings, which often feature a brick base — a nod to GCU’s past — topped by futuristic-looking rectangular shapes that jut in and out.

By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU Magazine

You won’t see another campus that looks quite like Grand Canyon University.

Instead of the columns, archways and Georgian colonial- or Greek revival-inspired structures that define other universities, GCU’s buildings call attention to their sand-, orange-, brown- or green cactus-colored modular shapes. Some are inset with rectangular strips of glass windows, while others tout granite gray-colored rectangles that might just jut out dauntlessly from between two other rectangles.

Then, below all those shapes, a solid base of brown brick holds up these modular architectural wonders. The design is futuristic, yet old-school.

“I think when we started off working on campus, we had just a couple of buildings that had a sense of history because they were built in the late 1950s,” said suoLL pronounced “soul”) architect Caroline Lobo, who designed many of the buildings on the GCU campus that contractor Pono Construction has brought to life in three-dimensional, brick and mortar structures.

“I think when (GCU President) Brian Mueller moved over, he always wanted the sense of these buildings being rooted in the University’s history and giving us a sense of time. That’s why most of the buildings have a brick component.”

That brick base in many of GCU’s edifices not only is a nod to GCU’s past, when it was a much smaller university of a few hundred students, it is also a reflection of the University’s Christian roots. “There’s such a strong Christian value system that the campus is based on, so we thought that we would start using the whole philosophy of Christian values to ground our buildings in the sense of history … we started using it as a cue to help us design the buildings,” Lobo said. “The campus is rooted in its history. That’s why you see this block, which is really the strong foundation of the Christian values that ground the campus.”

The buildings also incorporate that modern-looking, futuristic element in the design.

“Brian and his team, they’re always looking ahead,” Lobo said of the reason for incorporating those futuristic elements — the jutting and inset rectangles gingerly balancing atop one another, the rectangular spans of glass.

Lobo said the campus’ structures also are designed to be flexible in their use.

“They are designed to be adaptable over time to changing curriculums, to changing programs, what have you,” Lobo said. “So that’s why the buildings are built with a concrete column structure, so internally they can change on a regular basis as the need arises.”


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