You’re now standing in the middle of the Humanities Building. Contrary to popular myth, the building was not designed to protect against antiwar student riots. The architectural style is aptly called “Concrete Brutalism.” It looks more like a Soviet-era bunker than a place where history is taught and music recitals are held. The building was part of a burst of construction in the 1960s to accommodate a fast-growing student body. It suffered from major budget cutbacks, leaving it with an imposing, austere façade of sharp angles and concrete that became a playground for skateboarders.
In the long hallways of this building, however, there are multiple connections with religion. The building is named after beloved historian George Mosse, a Jewish émigré who lost most of his family in the Holocaust and spent thirty years at UW. Mosse’s early career was in the history of religion, and his numerous books have shaped scholars of religion and political ideology for generations. Today, the Humanities Building houses the Mosse Program in History and the Mosse/Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies. It also houses the Center for Religion and Global Citizenry, which succeeded the Lubar Institute for the Study of Abrahamic Religions.
Another sign of religious presence is the Children of Abraham art installation in the courtyard of the Humanities Building, by artist Philip Ratner. The sculpture was commissioned by the Lubar Institute at its opening in 2006. With the name of the biblical patriarch Abraham lettered in Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, it symbolizes the braided histories of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and signals the university’s quest for a vibrant religious pluralism on campus.
Walk up the stairs of the Humanities Building and head west toward the walking bridge. Turn left before the bridge and look on your left into the Humanities courtyard for “Children of Abraham.” Then turn around and head to the middle of the walking bridge for the next stop.