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Daniel Ronan

Brian, thank you for mentioning the utterly skewed priorities of the University of Oregon.

Indeed, I agree with you when you say "it's right now a tale of two students at UO, the athlete and the academic." However, I take issue with your whimsical and uniformed hope that somehow more egalitarian architecture will take place. With all of this starchitecture going on, the University will be hard pressed to find money to address the apparent inequalities in favor of newer, bigger and grander spaces for many that receive free tuition.

It's sickening, and unfortunately, I think your raving reviews of Matt Arena merely feed into the mantra that "athletics helps academics" - please, show me some studies and show me the money.

Brian Libby

Daniel, thank you for your comment.

You do make a fair point, but I'd argue that it's not as black and white as you ultimately make it out.

Walking to the Knight Arena I passed the Knight Law Library which was also bankrolled by Phil Knight. And there have been donations by others that have made possible other academic campus buildings like the Lillis Business Complex.

Instead, I'd argue that shoddy old dorms are a phenomenon that plagues many colleges.

At my alma mater, New York University, we had an impressive Philip Johnson-designed library and other nice buildings, but my dorm was a decay dump of an old tenement apartment building. Besides, we're talking about buildings worth hundreds of millions of dollars being bequeathed to the university.

Even if one might like to see Knight turn his attention next to bequeathing money for dorms, we shouldn't be quite so quick to judge the athletic buildings without remembering that they are gifts. I know there are sometimes costs for UO that are associated with that, be it financially or in terms of the message of inequality it sends. Even so, Knight's benefaction helps the school more than it hurts - at least in my opinion.

Does it mean I like seeing the swoosh become practically UO's second logo, or concession stands in the arena called "Uncle Phil's"? Or the artwork of Phil and Penny Knight in the bathrooms of the Jaqua Center? No, no and no. But a lot of other schools would dearly love to have that problem.

And at the end of the day, besides whatever intellectual arguments I make, I also fully and humbly confess that my inclination to give UO the benefit of the doubt is affected by the fact I'm a fanatical Ducks fan. It makes me less impartial, and I accept that, but I say so in full disclosure as always.


Brian: You asked if anyone has been to a basketball game or other event at Matthew Knight Arena with a review from an architectural or practical perspective. I have on my blog. Here's the URL:


I likewise commented on the Jaqua Center. Here's the link for that post:


As always, I love your blog and insights. Keep up the good work!

Daniel Ronan

Indeed Brian, you bring up some good points, many universities would love to have the problem we have here at the University of Oregon.

More germane to this post's content, I would say that this building is out-of-scale with its surroundings. It's physical footprint is massive, it breaks up the street grid and is not amenable to other forms of development or walking in between.

What sort of message does this send on a public university campus? While I'll admit that the previous site left much to be desired, has the development improved the urban design of the area? My argument would be a resounding "no."

For comparison, just look at the campus' original quad between Lillis and the library, it's surroundings are humane, the buildings face the space. The Matt Knight Arena faces towards a major arterial but away from the campus itself.

While I respect your affinity for buildings, I feel that architecture as a discipline has become too easily distracted by what is immediately on a site rather than including its surrounding context. Until architecture starts to work with urban design and planning, I think we'll continue to see buildings that lack context and soul.


I am sorry but that is some LOW quality design work from TVA. Just as bad as other architectural "gifts" dropped on the campus like Knight and the Knight law. Extremely mediocre. Not even going into the whole UO priorities discussion.

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