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GRAPHIC:  About AlumniArchitectural Details

Laboratory Balance

To reflect the University’s research mission, the Social Sciences Research Building (1929) was designed as a laboratory of sorts. Hinting at the fields studied within, the exterior features bosses on the molding below the parapet, depicting labor, commerce, government, family, agriculture, history, the voting ballot, an abacus, and a slide rule with calipers. The south face, particularly important in fleshing out the Midway facade, offers a paraphrased quotation from mathematician Lord Kelvin: “When you cannot measure, your knowledge is meager and unsatisfactory.”

The building itself went through a few revisions, as the architects tried to balance the adjacent Harper Memorial Library’s architecture with the social scientists’ demands for office space, storage, reading rooms, and bookstacks. Trustee Martin Ryerson influenced the original plan, calling for lower arches and simpler tracery, to make the SSR blend better with Harper’s western bookends, Wieboldt and Classics.—S.I.A.

architectural details
Photo by Dan Dry


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