The Catholic University of America

Oct. 16, 2009

Crough Center to Celebrate 20th Anniversary as Home of School of Architecture and Planning

The Edward M. Crough Center for Architectural Studies was dedicated on Oct. 19, 1989. A renovation of the building included an enhanced entrance and plaza.

Off the main Michigan Avenue entrance to Catholic University sits a rectangular building with a tan stucco exterior and a barrel-vaulted roof. Opened in 1919, the building known today as the Crough Center was among the first dozen buildings on campus.

But thanks to some postmodern alterations, the Crough Center is a mere 20 years old.

This month marks the 20th anniversary of the renovation of the building that was known through CUA's early years as the Old Gym, Drill Hall and Knights of Columbus Hall. In 1989 - 70 years after it was constructed - the building got a new life with $4 million in renovations and a new purpose as the Edward M. Crough Center for Architectural Studies.

Beyond preserving a unique building on campus, the renovation helped lead to a renaissance of the School of Architecture and Planning, which today is the largest professional design-education program in the Washington, D.C.-Baltimore area.

"The Crough Center immediately offered us consolidation, visibility, autonomy, focus and, most important, a sense of dynamic progress," says Randall Ott, dean of architecture and planning.

To celebrate the building's past, present and future, the School of Architecture and Planning is hosting an Oct. 23 reception from 5:30 to 8 p.m. in the Crough Center's Joseph Miller Exhibition Hall.

The 2009 Joseph Miller Alumni Medallion will be awarded during the event to C.R. George Dove, M.Arch. 1972, managing principal of WDG Architecture in Washington, D.C. The medallion is given for outstanding service to the school and to the professional architecture community and is named for the late Joseph Miller, B.Arch. 1938, a professor emeritus in the School of Architecture and Planning.

Before housing the architecture program, the Crough Center was home to athletics. The state-of-the-art gymnasium was built in the early 1900s. Photo from CUA Archives.
Two men who were instrumental in the building's renovation also will be recognized: Professor John V. Yanik, who served as associate architect for design during the center's renovation, and the late Vlastimil Koubek, the architect of record for the renovation and the person for whom the center's Koubek Auditorium is named.

Built in the early 20th century with money from the Knights of Columbus, the state-of-the-art gymnasium was the largest gym in Washington at the time, sporting a running track, a pool, bowling alleys and billiard rooms.

Besides having a 66-year life as an athletic center, the building contributed to other memorable moments, including hosting a commencement in which Franklin D. Roosevelt was given an honorary LL.D. degree in 1933. Pope John Paul II spoke about Catholic education before a capacity crowd in the gym during his 1979 visit to the CUA campus. The architecture department was housed on the second floor for almost 30 years after first being located in the attic of McMahon Hall and then in places scattered across campus.

With the addition of the Raymond A. DuFour Center in 1985, the Old Gym was slated for demolition. "Forlorn, neglected, abused," Yanik says of the building.

But he and a handful of creative supporters worked over the course of years to build support for the renovation of the building as a new home for the architecture program.

The gym floor where basketball was once played now supports architecture students working in studios. Photo from CUA Archives.

In the mid-1980s, Rev. William J. Byron, S.J., then university president, made the recently abandoned old gymnasium available to the architecture department, which was then part of the engineering school. Yanik and Professor Emeritus Walter Ramberg used it as the subject for a 3 ½-week class project for graduate students. Their directions to students: Turn the interior of the building into new quarters for the architecture school. The project was championed by then Associate Dean and Chair Stanley Ira Hallet.

In an alumnus, Edward M. Crough, B.C.E. 1950, the campaign to renovate the building received critical financial support. In addition to contributing money to the renovation, Crough's construction management company oversaw the renovation.

In a renovation that took a little more than a year, the interior was refurbished and a new roof, new windows and air conditioning were added; the heating and electrical systems were upgraded.

On Oct. 19, 1989, years of work by determined supporters were rewarded. The Edward M. Crough Center for Architectural Studies - an example of the architectural concepts of innovative recycling and adaptive re-use - was dedicated.

Yanik, who has taught at CUA since 1975, calls the renovation the project "I'm most proud of."

Since 1989, the academic program has grown from a full-time faculty and staff of 18 to 35 and the number of students has doubled. The school, which separated from the School of Engineering in 1992, offers a Bachelor of Science degree and five specialized tracks in a Master of Architecture professional degree program.

"Crough gave us a sense of having a true home, and with that came the confidence and space to spread our wings," Ott says.

Professor John Yanik and senior E.J. Crough, grandson of Edward M. Crough, share an appreciation of the Locraft Memorial Room in the Crough Center.

Today, students work in studios with state-of-the-art technology on a floor where basketball was once played. Among the students is Edward Crough's grandson, E.J. Crough, a senior.

E.J. Crough's faculty adviser is none other than Yanik, who 20 years ago worked so closely with his grandfather. "I enjoy having him as my adviser," E.J. Crough says. "From time to time, he'll have some anecdote about the building or my grandfather, which is fun."

The professor and the student share a special love of one feature of the building - the Locraft Memorial Room, an elliptical room at the front of the building on the second floor. The room, an especially challenging design feature created by Yanik, is now used for classes and special events. It was named for Thomas Locraft, department chair from 1949 to 1959.

"Here was the space occupied by our fledgling department from 1919 to 1949," Yanik says. "Forty years later, in 1989, we returned to a room transformed into the beautiful Locraft Memorial Room."

A commemorative book produced by the School of Architecture and Planning includes historic photos and student proposals for future renovations to the Crough Center. For a copy, contact the School of Architecture and Planning at 202-319-5188.

MEDIA: For more information, contact Katie Lee or Mary McCarthy in the Office of Public Affairs at 202-319-5600.