Wirtz continues to refine its 1960’s innovations

By Jake Miller

Nestled between McMurry and Gilbert halls lies Wirtz, a 78,074 square-foot structure constructed to aid in the housing of a rapidly-growing College of Business.

Wirtz Hall, which opened Nov. 30, 1965, was named after Mr. William W. Wirtz. Wirtz played an important role in business and educational affairs, serving on both the Northern Governing Board and the DeKalb Board of Education.

Wirtz was built between 1962 and 1965 in an effort to relieve the congested confines of the College of Business while providing a new building for the Department of Home Economics.

Originally, the College of Business occupied three-fifths of the building, while the home economics department utilized the other two-fifths to ease their cramped conditions in their previous residence, the Northern Science Building.

Wirtz, which cost $1.75 million to build, specifically was built just north of McMurry Hall to make the traverse for business students easy. The two buildings are connected to each other through the use of enclosed corridors.

The pre-cast concrete hall was designed by Samuelson & Sanquist of Chicago and constructed by Tonyan Construction Co. of McHenry. At the time, the design was thought to be innovative and creative with many modern features incorporated into the structure.

For example, architects incorporated a three-story light court into the center of Wirtz, deeming it the “heart” of the building. The court not only adds aesthetic appeal, but also plays a functional role in the building’s setup.

Zach Feeley , a health education major and student-at-large, still feels the building could afford to be a little more open.

“I wish there were more windows. None of the classrooms or offices has any and it kind of sucks,” Feeley said.

Samuelson & Sanquist designed the building around the court to gain space by “bending” the building around it. Along with gaining space, the double layer of translucent fiberglass panels allows for natural light to permeate the space.

Along with its unique design, Wirtz contained features that benefited both programs housed in the building.

The home economics department contained laboratories and classrooms in Wirtz, along with a nursery school, outdoor playground and department offices.

The College of Business, which also had rooms in McMurry, used the new space to house offices and classrooms for the management and finance departments, a data processing room and the business education department.

Since the College of Business moved to Barsema Hall in 2002, Wirtz now is home to the College of Health & Human Sciences.

In an effort to modernize the classrooms the college has upgraded technology as budget permits.

“The building is pretty typical of classroom buildings from [the 1960s]. I think since we moved in two years ago we have done our best to upgrade the building,” said Roger Maas, assistant to the dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences.

Combined with the 116-seat auditorium, Wirtz has 13 smart classrooms along with traditional classrooms and offices of the College.

“There has been an effort to add smart classrooms as the budget allows,” Maas said. “I feel the auditorium is state of the art.”