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September 4, 1984

Classes were held for the first time in Mudd Chemistry Building, an environmentally innovative, urgently needed but aesthetically controversial new home for the chemistry department. The new $7 million building ($6,151,000 in construction costs), designed by the Boston firm, Perry, Dean, Rogers and Partners, featuring extensive use of glass brick and a “trombe wall” passive solar heat system on its South-facing side, was necessary because the ubiquitous wood construction in the Sanders Chemistry Building (1909) rendered it impossible to bring up to current safety requirements. Persistent campus criticism of the location of the new building—roughly the site of Vassar’s original chemistry building, the Vassar Brothers Laboratory (1880-1938)—was joined by dissatisfaction with both the architects’ explicit modernity and utilitarian design and their attempt to accommodate the building to its early 20th century neighbors’ brick facades and lintel and roof lines. One student critic, writing in The Miscellany News, recalled Frank Lloyd Wright’s observation that “A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.”

Major funding for the Mudd Chemistry Building came from the Seely G. Mudd Fund.

The Years