• Home
  • The City Beautiful Movement and the Karl G. Maeser Building

The City Beautiful Movement and the Karl G. Maeser Building

During the 1890s and early 1900s architects and city planners developed a philosophy aimed at improving American cities through the use of grandeur and beautification. The City Beautiful Movement renewed appreciation for neo-classical and beaux-art asthetics and their emphasis on the necessity of order, dignity, and harmony in architecture. It also called for the elimination of urban slums and the beautification of cities in order to create moral and civic virtue among urban populations. This movement greatly influenced city planning and architecture across the country.

Karl G. Maeser Memorial Building, ca. 1911

The Karl G. Maeser Memorial Building’s neoclassical architecture and beautiful location on the brow of the hill overlooking Provo are clear indications of the impact that the City Beautiful Movement had on the architectural firm responsible for its construction–Ware and Treganza. Brad Westwood, an expert on the history of the Maeser Building, has argued that Ware and Treganza’s design captured the symbolic and rhetorical character that the BYU administration and alumni were looking for. The stately Maeser Building hearkens back to the architecture of Rome and boldly proclaims the nascent university’s aspirations to greatness.

At the time of its completion, the survival of Brigham Young University was still very much in question. The Maeser Building staked the university’s claim to the land on Temple Hill and its neoclassical architecture impressed visitors with its sense of solidity and presence. Nearly a 100 years later, the Maeser Building serves a similar purpose.

Information about the history of the Maeser Building can be found here. If you have any questions about the sources available for studying the history of the Maeser Building, contact the University Archivist at (801) 422-5821 or gordon_daines@byu.edu.

Recent Posts