Oakdale Studio A

Oakdale Studio A

Abbreviation: 
STUA
Number: 
0230
Address: 
2450 Old Hospital Road
Formal Name: 
Oakdale Studio A
Year: 
1950
Architect: 
Morgan and Gelatt, Burlington, Iowa
Historical: 

The Oakdale State Tuberculosis Sanatorium required housing for support personnel—physicians, nurses, medical aides, and administrative staff. Studio A was one of the ancillary residential buildings erected for employees; construction took place simultaneously with the Crosspark Road project of duplex apartments to the west, intended for the sanatorium’s doctors. The original structure included twenty-four family units and twenty-six “bachelor units.” An addition of the early 1960s increased its capacity by another twelve units. Today the building houses primarily faculty artist studios.
The International style Modernism of Studio A makes a fitting aesthetic match to the building’s function and context; the total elimination of ornament expresses the practical considerations of a state-funded undertaking. (It would be another fifteen years before Oakdale would be transferred to the University.) It also reveals the alliance between low-budget projects and stripped-down Modernism. The architect, however, has found inspiration in Walter Gropius’s 1920s Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany—simple asymmetrically massed blocks reinterpreted in red brick. The building’s interest lies in the variation of elemental geometries, an aesthetic option that still has architectural concerns beyond cost-effectiveness. Ferro-concrete balconies and porch canopies create projecting planes, and the grid geometry of the stone-clad stair tower’s glazing provides a nodal point where the two wings of apartments join. In Oakdale Studio A, the apartment building reflects Gropius’s vision of a “machine for living.” Its uncompromising design predates by one year the Communications Center, the first International style building on the Main Campus, and thus holds a position of note within the history of campus architecture.