"The Embattled University" Student Protest + Architecture, 1960s-1970s, University of Minnesota

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"The Embattled University" Student Protest + Architecture, 1960s-1970s, University of Minnesota

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The 1960s and 1970s, often referred to as the ‘protest years’, were a period of great unrest on university campuses nation-wide. Students protested the Vietnam War, the draft, civil rights, and other social equity issues, all of which reflected the shifting ideals of the rising ‘babyboomer’ generation. The scholarship surrounding the student protest movement is often discussed through the lenses of political science or sociology. Analyses of the era rarely acknowledge how architecture influences protests; most discussions of the student protest movement, in fact, completely ignore the physical settings of demonstrations. This study addresses this gap in scholarship by arguing that the design of the built environment contains controls and affordances for protests, using the University of Minnesota as a case study and a microcosm of greater social trends across the nation. It further argues that students repeatedly used certain spaces on campus—whether consciously or not—based on stylistic, spatial, or programmatic factors. The symbolism of the institution —embedded in campus architecture— influenced the locations chosen for rallies, as documented by archival resources such as student newspapers and photographs, and by oral histories of students from the era. Student unions, administrative buildings, armories, and auditoriums were found to be particularly charged spaces that demonstrators adopted or adapted to reinforce the meaning of the protests. These findings were then diagrammed onto University of Minnesota spaces in order to visually represent the information analyzed in a way that could be presented as part of an exhibition on architecture’s role in protests.


Submitted under the supervision of Gregory Donofrio to the University Honors Program at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Science, summa cum laude in Architecture.

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Ghoshal, Shreya; Torkelson, Jacob. (2017). "The Embattled University" Student Protest + Architecture, 1960s-1970s, University of Minnesota. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/188053.

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