Gammage Auditorium

An ASU Icon Since 1964

In 1926, well-known architect Frank Lloyd Wright was called to Phoenix to help with the building of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel.

In 1926, well-known architect Frank Lloyd Wright was called to Phoenix to help with the building of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel. This was the beginning of Wright's long relationship with Arizona. In the early 1960s, Arizona State University President Grady Gammage wanted Wright to bring a new look to the university, so Wright promised that this structure would be the gateway to ASU. Wright's design for the auditorium was based on an earlier design of his for an opera house in Baghdad, Iraq, which was never built because of the 1958 Iraqi coup d'état. Shortly before construction took place in 1962, the president of the university, Dr. Grady Gammage, passed away. Under Gammage's presidency, the school went from a college to a university, among many other changes and additions. To commemorate his time as president, the new auditorium was named Gammage Auditorium. Gammage Auditorium opened in 1964 and has since been an icon of the university and the western anchor of Apache Boulevard.

Frank Lloyd Wright would have an indelible impact on the architectural modernism of the greater Salt River Valley region. This extended from his landmark Taliesin West to various designs for commercial and non-profit organizations throughout the region. Ironically, perhaps his most interesting design was ever built. In 1957, Wright designed the blueprints for the Arizona State Capitol Oasis. The design featured gardens, fountains, reflective pools, a gazebo, and more. Even though everyone was in agreement that Wright's design was spectacular, the state decided to instead construct a conventional building in front of the original state capitol. When President Kennedy's Secretary of Interior, Stewart Udahl, was later asked why Arizona had the ugliest state capitol, he said "Because we missed the boat and muffed the ball when we rejected the Oasis Design by Frank Lloyd Wright."

In 1964 Gammage Auditorium celebrated its grand opening with a performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Today Gammage hosts traveling Broadway shows and musicals, among many other programs that range from presidential debates to musical performances.

Images

Gammage Auditorium from Apache Boulevard.
Gammage Auditorium from Apache Boulevard. Before Gammage Auditorium was built, the lot was used as an athletic field.
Aerial view of Gammage
Aerial view of Gammage Gammage Auditorium was built at a time when both Arizona State University and the City of Tempe had relatively small footprints. Beginning in the 1960s, the population of Tempe exploded, reflecting broader patterns of growth in Arizona and the American southwest. Source: Arizona State University Archive, Arizona State University Facilities Management Photographs, 1955-1983, Series I: Campus Buildings, 1.35 Aerial View of Gammage Auditorium, 1972. Date: 1972
Plat Map
Plat Map Plat map (showing divisions of land) of the present day Gammage Auditorium property when it was originally purchased. Source: Arizona State University Library
Gammage Auditorium at Night
Gammage Auditorium at Night Gammage became an iconic structure, as the University hoped, anchoring the southwest corner of the Tempe campus; it has been used continuously for more than fifty years. Source: Tempe History Museum, 1999.14.861. Creator: Alfred Thomas Date: 1975
Oasis Plan for the Arizona Capitol
Oasis Plan for the Arizona Capitol A rendition of the Oasis plan developed for the Arizona State Capitol by Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright published and publicized his plan in 1957; the plan exhorted, "Citizens of Arizona—the state is your home! Your spirt should there find appropriate expression. ... I have put on paper definite outlines of an edifice more suitable to the character and beauty of our Arizona and its landscape." Source: Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Creator: Frank Lloyd Wright Date: 1957
Designing Gammage
Designing Gammage Architect Frank Lloyd Wright shows off his plan for Gammage Auditorium to Arizona State University President Grady Gammage. Source: Tempe History Museum, 1999.14.550. Date: 1955

Location

1200 S Forest Ave, Tempe, AZ 85281

Metadata

https://www.asugammage.com
Salt River Stories Team and Nick Von Gnechten, “Gammage Auditorium,” Salt River Stories, accessed June 24, 2024, https://saltriverstories.org/items/show/116.