Stop 11 (Mural Room)

Mural Room
Looking into Gallery 2 from Mural Room, ca. 1945

In the 1920s, the Mayan Revival was adopted into mainstream design, a movement led by the British-born architect Robert B. Stacy-Judd. Stacy-Judd’s exuberant promotion of the Mayan Revival during the Art Deco period renewed both the search for an “all-American” architectural expression and the public’s infatuation with the glamorous mystery of the style.

Smith captured this exotic glamour in the murals adorning the meeting space, originally referred to as a board room. Here you can enjoy one of the best views of the Main Garden. This room is elaborately painted with murals in bright polychrome colors, with Mayan figures set within a botanically-rich environment, surrounded by curlicues and abstract geometrics. A central figure, above the fireplace on the southern wall, is a Mayan woman in native dress, rising from a sunburst above the stern face of a mythological figure.

Smith, working as both architect and artist, never abandoned his interest in the Mayan Revival even after its popularity began to wane; he was therefore able to achieve a singular artistic vision not replicated in other examples. Many architects evolve during their careers, moving from one aesthetic to another, such as Frank Lloyd Wright moving from his Prairie projects into his Usonian designs.  Smith kept his original focus, only altering minor techniques in the creation of his concrete renderings. 

As you enter the main gallery area, be sure to look at the decorative carved blocks around the fireplace on the eastern wall. It is composed of square reliefs with abstract designs, and a concrete plaque with the following inscription: “The Artist’s Job is to Explore/To Announce New Visions/And to Open New Doors.” The abstract designs set in concrete here are also found in André’s painted works, etchings, and notebooks from the same period of experimentation.  Where else on campus can you find work by André Smith?