Wake County

NC State’s Harrelson Hall is gone, but its pieces live on

NC State’s Harrelson Hall gone, replaced by green space

After months of demolition work, the architecturally-unique circular building on NC State’s campus is gone, replaced by a temporary landscaped green space.
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After months of demolition work, the architecturally-unique circular building on NC State’s campus is gone, replaced by a temporary landscaped green space.

After more than 50 years looming over the N.C. State University campus, the building that looked more like a UFO than classrooms has vanished.

Over the summer, a hydraulic crusher chewed through Harrelson Hall, reducing the concrete structure to rubble. Workers transformed its circular footprint into a landscaped area that opened to students last week.

The new open area is much brighter without the big building that cast a broad shadow across The Brickyard, a main gathering place on campus, and includes benches fashioned from pieces of Harrelson’s limestone facade.

Though the building may be gone, its materials and contents have gotten new lives on campus and elsewhere, said Liz Bowen, program coordinator for the University Sustainability Office. During demolition, crews hauled off about 11.7 million pounds of building material to a local waste and recycling company for processing.

In total, 95 percent of the building’s non-hazardous materials were diverted from the landfill and recycled, Bowen said. It took about a year to find people and places that could take and reuse all the different parts of the building.

“These materials were usable, but we just had to connect them to the markets,” she said.

Everything from ceiling tiles to concrete found new homes, and some materials didn’t even leave campus, she said. For example, the College of Education received Harrelson’s audio-visual equipment and some of its carpet.

The building’s concrete will be used to fill road beds, while a fire department took doors and hinges to use during training exercises, Bowen said. Habitat for Humanity took furniture and white boards to a local charter school.

When Harrelson Hall opened in 1961, the building’s main architect, Edward Walter Waugh, won acclaim for his innovative design. The building was a campus workhorse, and accommodated up to 4,500 students in 88 curved, windowless classrooms. For decades, it was the most-used academic building in the UNC system.

Though some hailed it as an architectural triumph, others disliked it for having uncomfortable seating, a lack of natural light and cramped, pie slice-shaped bathroom stalls. The center of the building included a ramp-like walkway that would allow students to walk from floor to floor. It became popular with students who bragged to friends about rolling balls or skateboarding down the ramp.

It was also a building that everyone had an opinion about, and Bowen said she’s glad parts of it will remain and remind people of what was once there.

“What I’m most proud of is that Harrelson will live on,” she said. “People had a lot of good memories of this building.”

But just like Harrelson, the landscaped area that sits on the footprint of the building won’t be there forever.

The College of Sciences has future plans to build a new classroom building on the spot, though this time, it probably won’t look like a UFO.

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