Urban Art: Colors of Southern Nevada
Few may remember Dr. Richard Moore. When Dr. Moore was engaged by the Nevada Board of Regents to serve as the president of the College of Southern Nevada in 1993, he brought with him a strong sense of curiosity, an energetic drive to bring academic recognition to the institution immediately and to create a campus environment that energized students, faculty and staff to seek excellence. His goal was to create the best most highly recognized community college - worldwide.
The new president was immediately hands-on with every aspect of directing the school, its academics, its services and campus facilities and to motivate others to achieve the highest levels of success possible--while making learning fun. To generate additional income for the college he initiated a program to attract foreign students to the college’s campuses. In addition to creating a new funding stream, attracting foreign students increased the college's academic recognition. International students also provided a greater racial, cultural and demographic diversity that enriched the overall learning environment for local students that in turn attracted more minority students and students from other parts of the state and nation. His international program was highly successful in bringing positive results and public attention to the college.
During the same timeframe, Dr. Moore's curiosity led to observations across his three campuses that the dull institutional character of the college's second largest West Charleston Campus evoked little attention or interest from those passing the campus daily at 50 mph, along West Charleston Boulevard. President Moore wanted that changed immediately. Having a strong appreciation of the work created by Ricardo Legorreta, Mexico's world renowned architect, Dr. Moore determined he wanted to visually redefine the West Charleston campus to provide a strong, unified collage of modern urban art express through its campus planning, it's architecture and integrated drought-tolerant landscape.
Dr. Moore commissioned RAFI Architecture and Design to assist in crafting his new indigenous Mojave Desert urban imagery - incorporating a palate of simple materials, plant life, color, and sheltered spaces for students, faculty and staff to informally mix and gather outdoors. The new campus plan developed by Dr. Robert Fielden, NCARB, FAIA reflects ancient Anasazi villages that were once abundant along the Colorado River basin more than 1,000 years ago. Across campus, building arrangements were planned to form small hamlets each centered around a well-landscaped intimate outdoor courtyard where people could informally gather.
Collectively, tree-lined pedestrian malls link hamlets together producing a village. Simple architectural forms are abstract in character and are specifically designed to create additional outdoor shade. Noted environmental designer LJ Spina, a RAFI principal created the Legorreta inspired landscape and color palate using common colors native to the Mojave Desert environs. Sherri Payne, a RAFI principal at the time was the project's architect. The completed campus improvements accomplished the president's goals. People passing by on West Charleston Boulevard now slowed to observe the dramatic visual imagery the campus possessed. Urban design, drought-tolerant landscaping and the campus architecture became topics of many discussions and articles in the press. Weekends on campus were filled with visitors photographing the architecture and color. Students were happy, campus enrollment doubled and the projject received national, and international design awards and recognition for contributions to architectural excellence. Two and one-half decades later what emerged through President Moore's dedication to excellence can bw seen in a new reflection of national colors native to Southern Nevada in the 7 Magic Mountains public art piece by Ugo Rondinone. The art piece specifically commissioned by MGM Resorts for the Mojave Desert is located near Jean, Nevada. today, the piece is viewed by millions of viewers traveling in motor vehicles through the desert along US Interstate 15, or by those stopping at the site near the Nevada, California state line.
With Breaking Barriers, when we think of people that make a difference, we have to remember Dr. Richard Moore. RAFI is happy we were there to help.