Duke University will rename its central quadrangle after Julian Abele, the African American architect who designed much of the Gothic campus, including Duke Chapel.
The renaming, approved by trustees and announced Tuesday by Duke President Richard Brodhead, is meant to more prominently honor Abele’s role in the university’s history. Duke students have pushed for more recognition for Abele.
Abele was the chief designer of the Philadelphia architectural firm of Horace Trumbauer in the 1920s. His role wasn’t well known until Duke students drew attention to Abele in the 1980s.
The newly named Abele Quad extends from the steps leading up to Clocktower Quad to the steps leading up to Davison Quad, and north to the Chapel Quad. It’s a main gathering space for celebrations, protests, concerts and ceremonies and includes more than 30 buildings and spaces designed by Abele.
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Also included is the Allen Building, the university’s main administration building and Abele’s last work, which was completed after his death in 1950. A marker designating Abele Quad will be placed on a pathway at the center of the quad between the academic and residential sections. A plaque will also be placed in Duke Chapel.
“Julian Abele brought the idea of Duke University to life,” Brodhead said in a news release announcing the new name. “It is an astonishing fact that, in the deepest days of racial segregation, a black architect designed the beauty of this campus. Now, everyone who lives, works, studies and visits the heart of Duke’s campus will be reminded of Abele’s role in its creation.”
The renaming comes as universities across the country are taking stock of historic buildings. Duke, East Carolina and UNC Greensboro have removed from campus buildings the name of Charles Aycock, a former North Carolina governor who built many schools in the state but also supported a white supremacy campaign in the 1900s. UNC-Chapel Hill renamed Saunders Hall, which had been named for purported Ku Klux Klan leader William Saunders.
As part of its new recognition for Abele, Duke will install a mural permanently in its Nasher Museum of Art and commission a biography of the designer.