Quad Dormitories

After the end of World War II, a sudden influx of new students entered college campuses nationwide. In order to accommodate the increase, plans for the construction of three dormitories on Drake’s campus were set into motion. Carpenter, Crawford and Stalnaker Halls were completed in 1955, with Herriott Hall following as an addition in 1957.

The residence halls were placed on top of a small ravine, requiring footbridges to access Crawford and Carpenter. The bridges allowed for nature to remain undisturbed below, with the exception of a large cement pool placed in this area. This pool served as a spot for reflection, a location where Drake students could come to contemplate life or delve deeply into their studies. The individual dormitories were also connected by multi-level metal balconies that were meant to allude to the ironwork present in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

The residence halls are primarily composed of reinforced concrete and steel, using a brick façade with projected steel sashes. Much like the structure of a house of cards, the buildings were constructed using tilt-up slabs, wall panels poured on the ground and lifted into place to from the letter “H”. This structural plan ensured equal partitions and provided solid structural support throughout the buildings.

Upon completion of the dorms, the interior plans were set into motion. The lobby of each building included a front desk, with mailboxes placed behind it. Each floor of the dormitories included a living room, furnished with card tables, desks, couches, floor lamps, waste baskets, Venetian blinds, window benches and lounge chairs. In 1954, the pricing of all of those items equaled $432.00, costing each student only $11.37, included in their tuition and housing fees.

The double bedrooms each contained beds, matching tack board and mirror combinations, a window bench, 5 x 5 foot rug, Venetian blinds, and desks with matching chairs, priced at $281.13 per student. With the exception of a varied system of wall colors, the dorm rooms were kept relatively neutral, allowing individual students to decorate their living spaces according to their own aesthetic sense.

All the lines of the interior spaces complemented those of the exterior. Saarinen’s clean, smooth lines and uncluttered, modern style echoed throughout the halls of the dormitories, both in the furniture and spacing of the rooms.

These clean lines and shapes were kept in mind during the summer 2007 and 2008 renovations, influencing everything from the new furniture to the revamped front desk space. Sleek, new sofas replaced the old, and flat screen TVs now adorn the walls. While the look of the interior may have changed, Saarinen’s basic principles remain the same.

Text: Eric Gudmundson and Emily Nitcher