Glistening glass work
Thirty years ago, TCU broke ground on the Moudy Building. This summer it expands again.
by Rick Waters '95
Updated: Monday, June 08, 2009
On March 26, 1982, Chancellor Emeritus James M. Moudy spoke in the atrium of the building that bears his name, praising the university’s vision for the Journalism, Radio-TV-Film, Speech Communication and Art programs.
It’s glass portico atrium is three stories high, contrasting the simple buff brick and gray concrete that dominates its exterior.
It sparkles. It reflects. It brings in light and gives some shade. The mullions holding it in place form interesting patterns that change as people move beneath or beside them.
That’s what architects Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo and Associates had in mind for the James M. Moudy Building when TCU asked the firm to design a home for its visual arts and communications programs. That was 30 years ago this spring.
The $16 million, two-building structure was a gift to the university from the Amon G. Carter Foundation, who requested it be named for the departing chancellor in 1979. It served two purposes: it allowed room to grow for two of TCU’s fastest-growing majors — Radio-TV-Film and Journalism — and aided the expansion of the College of Fine Arts, which was crowded in Landreth Hall.
As it was then, Moudy remains a radical break from the traditional TCU look. Erected across University Drive from the classic columns of Jarvis and Sadler halls and the Georgian façade of Landreth Hall, it stood out as modern and forward-looking.
The TCU Daily Skiff called it a “complicated, geometric beauty” when part of it opened in Fall 1981. The rest was ready the following spring, when it was dedicated.
Roche’s group came with impressive credentials. The Connecticut-based firm, selected by Ruth Carter Johnson, had used its “glass clad” approach to similar advantage in the award-winning United Nations Plaza Building and the Metropolitan Museum expansion in New York. The Moudy Building was their first foray into Texas.
In total, the building uses 1,756 pieces of tempered glass, the largest being two-by-four feet and the smallest about the size of the palm of a hand. Each was made specifically for its place and shipped from Pennsylvania. Fewer than 100 broke during installation.
“This is not fragile glass,” project manager Clifford Olin said at the time. “It can withstand winds of more than 100 miles an hour. It is heat-treated and treated not to shatter.”
Each pane consists of two pieces of one-eighth-inch glass laminated to an inner layer of vinyl, with a nickel coating on one side. This makes it reflective and gives a gray tint. It also means no pane could be installed upside down, and there was only one way for each of the pieces to be installed.
Inside, Moudy was equipped with the newest equipment — a control room overlooking two color television studios, film splicing and editing bays, radio announcing and recording rooms for KTCU-FM and a modern newsroom with a fleet of microcomputers for the Skiff. It also featured a 154-seat lecture hall, smaller lecture-style classrooms with a stage and acoustic walls, photography laboratories, darkrooms, high-ceilinged art studios and a slide library.
Moudy was the first TCU building to accommodate multimedia technologies.
“It’s among the country’s best learning facilities in these fields,” Chancellor Emeritus Moudy said at the building’s dedication. “The building is yet another step in the expansion of the academy. Programs that were once merely classes may blossom into disciplines. I can imagine no greater structure as a showcase setting for the study and research of the most human of endeavors.”