Building the Loop

Posted by - - 1920s, Builders

In the years since Whitworth’s 1914 relocation to Spokane, several master plans have been proposed by campus planners, architects and leaders that envision the Whitworth of tomorrow. As with many plans, execution of Whitworth’s master plans has, at times, yielded to existing priorities, timing, funding and practicality. For example, the original 1914 master plan, designed by architect Archibald Riggs, did not include The Loop as we know it today, but rather featured a V-shape design that culminated in a Gothic cathedral at the center.

Ultimately, McMillan and Ballard halls provided the starting point for Whitworth’s architectural design, with moderately scaled brick buildings. The site of an envisioned stately cathedral became the site of an actual library. This shift in focus from a church to a library was likely unintentional, but it illustrates the balance many church-related colleges sought to strike between valuing scripture and the Christian faith, as represented by an architectural focus on a church structure, and encouraging the free and open exchange of ideas embraced by secular academia and embodied in a library building.

While a majority of the buildings circling The Loop today were in place by the 1960s, Whitworth underwent a formal planning process in 1975 that addressed the future needs of a campus accommodating 1,500 students. Architect Ben Nielsen was part of the project team whose plan incorporated a campus drive, or loop road, that encircled the central grounds and all of the major buildings and created a pedestrian inner loop. The plan also advocated very selective tree cutting to highlight Whitworth’s ponderosa pines as a dominant feature of the campus. The plan specified that its elements should “exhibit Whitworth’s theme of Christian living [through] environmental consciousness in all physical changes, [through] conservation in daily living, and [by] creating settings that are conducive to human growth and interchange.” The 1975 plan proved effective for its long-range vision and still gives shape to the current campus layout.

By the early 1990s, it was time for another assessment and update of the campus master plan, with a particular focus on enhancing the overall physical plant and fixing trouble spots. The plan, developed by Ira Fink & Associates, based in Berkeley, Calif., and adopted by the board of trustees in 1995, more clearly defined Whitworth’s campus borders and entrance, ensured architectural cohesiveness between new buildings and older structures, consolidated parking, enhanced the green spaces, improved campus flow, and identified future needs for a west-side athletics zone and a northeast residential zone.

Whitworth adopted the latest plan, by Perkins & Will, of Minneapolis, Minn., in 2010. The plan addresses the needs of a campus of up to 3,000 students and includes all future academic facilities within a 10-minute walk of the center of campus.