NC State Bookstore – 1960 (Demolished)

Drawing of the NCSU Bookstore. Image is courtesy of and copyright NCSU Special Collections

The NC State Bookstore has been doomed for a few years, but its plight only became public about a year ago when plans for the Talley Student Center were published. On a muggy day filled with heat lightning and sporadic rain, the original Student Supply Store was demolished. In its place will be a grassy area behind the renovated Student Center.

Bookstore, being demolished

The demolition of the Bookstore wasn’t the decision of the architect in charge of the project, Turan Duda. NC State officials have long loathed this building, and most students had a negative or indifferent opinion.

Rendering of proposed Student Supply Store. Image courtesy of and copyright NCSU Special Collections

Despite the fact the architect was part of the 1948 wave of new architecture instructors at the newly formed School of Design, the building received almost no support from the current faculty. In fact, the Dean of the College of Design viewed the building as only mildly important, and not worth saving:

I’ve never seen the bookstore as an iconic structure that absolutely should be saved. It certainly represents an architectural period in which the school was important, and it was a statement when it was built. But if it had been a really iconic structure, I’d have weighed in.

— Dean Marvin Malecha (News & Observer, 02/13/2011)

There was one notable exception, however, to the non-response this building received from the current faculty: Frank Harmon. Mr. Harmon is one of the most noteworthy architects currently in practice in Raleigh, and he is also a professor at the College of Design.

When I moved to Raleigh in 1960 to study architecture at the acclaimed N.C. State University School of Design, the new Student Bookstore looked to me like a masterpiece. Its dancing roof, sleek lines and fabulous brickwork made it stand out like a breath of the future. I felt as if I was in the presence of the new. […]

Today we speak about the importance of sustainable design, yet at N.C. State we may throw away a remarkable building that could serve us another 50 years or more. Arguably the most sustainable act of building is to reuse what we already have. Doing so means we don’t mine the earth or cut trees to build. And reusing a building means we don’t create a new landfill.

— Frank Harmon, News & Observer, 02/15/11

These trees will be felled.

When asked, a construction manager informed me that the the trees in the photo above would be cut down for this project. It’s terribly sad that a LEED-certified building project is not only hauling away tons of debris, but cutting down these large shade trees in the middle of campus.

What remains of the building when the windows are taken out indicates just how much glass was used. This stands in stark contrast to the majority of buildings on campus which feature narrow slats or squat rectangles for windows.

The new Talley Student Center looks like it will be an impressive building that NCSU students, faculty, and alumni can be very proud of. It wouldn’t have taken much to incorporate this building in to the new design, and be a shining example of adaptable reuse.

Love for this building was limited to modern architecture fans and former students. However, I think in 10-20 years perceptions and opinions on this building and its style will change.

There are only a small number of buildings on campus designed by the original group of legendary architects that populated the School of Design during its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s. The few left will be erased from new master plans, and eventually these unique and funky historic buildings will be gone forever.

Although its days are also numbered, it seems unfair for the flawed and universally loathed Harrelson Hall to outlive the Bookstore.

To see more photos and blueprints of the bookstore, please see NC State: Please Don’t Destroy the Bookstore!

All images labeled as “copyright NCSU Special Collections” are protected by copyright and are not to be distributed or reproduced without permission from the Special Collections Research Center. I kindly ask you respect this and not distribute copyrighted material.

All other images were taken by me (John Morris) and are not under similar copyright restrictions. I encourage you to distribute, reproduce, or otherwise share those images.

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2 Responses to “NC State Bookstore – 1960 (Demolished)”

  1. Bethany

    Harrelson Hall for sure is a disaster. I guess there are just too many people using it to tear it down? It may be interesting but it is hardly functional. Sad the trees have to go!

  2. nil blur

    Sad and dumb. When I was an SOD student at the end of the 70’s, studying architecture, this building helped me understand Mies’ ideas of universal space, the free plan, and other basic ideas associated with early Modernism. Note to SOD faculty: even a homegrown, second or third generation modern building can teach you something. All respect to Mr. Small. It was also just a modest, cool, shady building to be around, unlike the Union which was huge and ungainly and dreary. I can totally remember the cool (in the other sense), smooth concrete under the folded canopy and the brick walls with dark brick headers that made it look kind of like fabric. Very tactile and approachable. The Dean’s comments are not surprising; when I was there, founding Dean Kamphoefner was not being treated that well by the administration of the day. So it goes. I’ll remember the bookstore.

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