The Harris Fine Arts Center is currently undergoing demolition to build a new arts facility in its place.
The demolition is projected to be finished within the next few months. The above-ground portion of the building, which accounts for less than half of its square footage, will be demolished in just a few weeks, College of Fine Arts and Communications Dean Ed Adams said.
When junior illustration major Abby Knox heard demolition had begun, she said she grabbed her stuff, clocked out of work and ran to watch the building come down.
“I mean, anyone wants to watch a building being torn down. It’s kind of interesting,” Knox said. “But also, that was just such an important part of being at BYU.”
Knox said the HFAC was her on-campus home base. She skipped one of her classes just to watch the demolition, she said.
Micah Horlacher from Centerville, Utah paused to watch an excavator chip away at the south end of the building Friday, March 3. He said he used to attend weekly church meetings in the HFAC.
“The craziest thing is to see the outside, and looking into the inside, which is like, totally normal. We used to walk around in there,” Horlacher said.
Freshman Abigail Davis said although she never had any classes in the HFAC, she is sad to see the building go.
“Somebody made this, you know? It’s crazy to see it taken apart piece by piece,” she said.
BYU first announced plans to tear down the HFAC in June 2022. According to Dean Adams, the decision-making process about a building’s lifespan is complex and methodical.
Dean Adams has been involved in the building planning process since the beginning. One of his primary goals as dean, he said, has been to improve physical facilities within the college.
Earlier in his career, Dean Adams worked to relocate communications students to the Brimhall Building and said he realized “changing facilities can change the excellence in projection.” He wanted to offer the same opportunities to students who were in subpar facilities in the HFAC, he said.
During his tenure, Adams and others conducted a thorough 18-month study of the HFAC, exploring renovation possibilities.
“I started understanding how chronic and how bad some of the problems were,” Adams said.
If the university had decided to salvage the building rather than demolish it, Adams said they would have lost 25% of the facility’s academic space due to modern code requirements, and it would have come with a hefty price tag. As it was, the HFAC did not meet standards outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act, Adams said.
“We considered every viable option on how we could save the facility because these are the most expensive buildings built on any university campus,” he said.
The HFAC was designed by modernist architect William Pereira, who designed the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco. With a growing student population and evolving course catalog, his original blueprint was no longer suited to the university’s needs, Adams said.
“I think that the Harris Fine Arts Center lived well,” Adams said. It outlived several other buildings of its generation, including the Widtsoe Building, the Smith Family Living Center and Deseret Towers.
Following demolition, construction will begin on a new arts facility, which is scheduled to be completed in Fall 2025. The new blueprint will allow for more natural light in classrooms, campus green space and parking, Adams said.
Students in the College of Fine Arts and Communications have relocated to West Campus, formerly Provo High School, in the interim.
Adams said he is excited for new opportunities within the college, which serves 4,200 student majors, other students on campus and the public.
“It’s just trying to think from a student perspective, what the student experience is in these spaces. Hopefully they’re filled with light and air and space and are aesthetically pleasing,” he said.