Brook Muller oral history interview, 2022 January 13
Brook Muller assumed his position as the Dean of the College of Arts and Architecture at UNC Charlotte in the fall of 2019. Shortly after his arrival he was invited by Chancellor Dubois to chair the Niner Nation Remembrance Memorial Jury and Advisory Group that met in 2020 and 2021 to facilitate the selection of the winning design for the April 30th remembrance memorial. [All times approximate]. [00:00] Introductions and reflections about Mr. Muller's path to UNC Charlotte and his focus as an architect on environmental concerns, in particular the interaction of water and the built environment. [05:10] Mr. Muller discusses his personal experience as a distant but invested observer of the April 30th campus shooting and the role of art in healing trauma. [08:54] He describes his experience as a newcomer to UNC Charlotte in the fall of 2019, his awareness of a community fabric that was frayed but strong, and his thoughts about the need to create more outdoor gathering spaces on campus to bring the community together. [14:10] He reflects on the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic on the performing arts, the disappointment of derailed plans for remembrance events in the spring of 2020, and the ingenuity of faculty in adapting to teaching remotely. [16:54] Mr. Muller recalls how the Memorial Jury and Advisory Group was formed to facilitate the selection of a permanent memorial in front of the Kennedy building to remember, mourn, and confirm the bonds of the campus community. He details the diverse makeup of the group, which included leaders in Charlotte's art and culture community. He outlines the process by which they selected the winning design. [22:50] He discusses the various elements of design that were considered by the Jury and Advisory Committee. These included an iconic element as part of an artful landscape that would create a quiet space to entice lingering and reflecting on a personal and community level. The overall design was also required to embody meaning beyond memories of April 30th. [28:30] He describes how the committees worked towards consensus in selecting four finalists out of the thirty six entries, and why they chose the winning design by the team Ten X Ten Landscape Architecture and Urbanism, Hypersonic Collaborative, and Susan Hatchell Landscape Architecture. [35:48] Mr. Muller outlines his continued service on an Advisory Committee to steer the memorial from the initial design to completion. He describes his vision of the finished memorial and the symbolism of its design elements, including hardscape and landscape. [44:12] He reflects on the history of the memorial site as a traditional gathering space on campus where earlier structures created a focus, and its proximity to a recently erected fountain. [49:20] He discusses his thoughts about the fate of the Kennedy building, the importance of not tearing it down, and the dialogue between the memorial landscape and the canopy of Kennedy. Final reflections follow reiterating his admiration for the work of the Jury and Advisory team and the depth of meaning the project carried for all involved.