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James Hunter: One of the LSC's earliest stories

April 2, 2012
By Kayla Green

With the Lory Student Center Theatre nearly complete, it's no surprise that Architect James Hunter's family would get a personal invitation for an honorary tour of the building.

In fact, it’s rather interesting that such a unique man would have so much to do with our campus, and yet, be one of CSU’s best kept secrets…

A best kept secret

Jumping into his career in the mid-1930s, Hunter began a name for himself after receiving his degree at the University of Illinois in architectural engineering and design. Shortly after, Hunter was an integral part in forming the firm Huntington, Jones and Hunter. From the early formation of the firm and up until 1945, Hunter, Glen H. Huntington and Harold Stuart Jones designed a number of buildings, including the Citizens National Bank Building in Boulder. After serving in World War II, Hunter would eventually go on to establish his own office and become an instrumental part of our campus history and every student's experience today at Colorado State University.

A fellow, a campstool and a legacyJames Hunter's original drawing of the Theatre design.

It was in the early 1950s that Hunter began designing buildings for CSU that would ultimately prove to be familiar landmarks with students today. The first of his projects was Allison Hall in which he was challenged with designing a contemporary residence hall for 421 female students that connected four three-story wings to a central lobby, lounge, recreation room, dining center and director’s office.

Shortly thereafter, Hunter designed the Danforth Chapel for which he received national recognition in 1955 by the American Institute of Architects. The building’s design was later featured in the New York Architectural League’s gold medal show that same year.

In 1960, Hunter designed the historic Lory Student Center Theatre, which became widely known for its catenary suspended roof. The building, which incorporated the unique design of a campstool, was designed so that the acoustical effects could be heard from every seat in the house.

Similarly, Hunter also designed the Lory Student Center, CSU Engineering Building, a total of three residence halls, the Animal Sciences Building and the Plant Sciences Building—all of which demonstrated or contributed to his ranking as fellow by the AIA.

In addition to his contributions to architectural design, Hunter also spearheaded the use and incorporation of solar design within buildings. His interest in the new-found concept made him a key consultant on the utilization of solar energy as well as a member of the Association for Applied Solar Energy’s advisory board.

In 1983, Hunter died at the age of 75, leaving behind a legacy that can be seen throughout campus today. Hunter is currently interred at Danforth Chapel on CSU’s campus.

Touching up an aged buildingThe stage's backdrop is a tribute to Fort Collins's very own Horsetooth Reservoir.

Today, the LSC Theatre Renovation will continue to honor Hunter’s contributions to the campus by preserving and further highlighting the prominent campstool design. While keeping the exterior of the building true to its original nature, the interior design will incorporate expandable seating, banquet seating, a tribute to Colorado nature, a new green room and catering service as well as pay tribute to the Theatre’s history by emphasizing the ceiling through the use of LED lights and a new 360 degree balcony surrounding the interior.

"A key part of the Lory Student Center renovation is to celebrate the history of CSU and the relationships that were created here, so it’s symbolic to have James Hunter’s family, who represent the past of the LSC, meet the new architects who are creating the future of the building. The architects are thrilled to meet them and the family is excited to be included. We are just honored to be a witness to this historic moment in the story of the Lory Student Center," Alexis Kanda-Olmstead, director of Lory Student Center Relations said.

This Wednesday, April 4, Hunter’s family will have the opportunity to re-walk the footsteps of his legacy and experience the new Theatre for themselves. During their visit, Perkins and Will along with Aller Lingle Massey, the LSC’s chosen architects for the LSC Theatre and future Student Center renovation, will present an overview of both renovations as well as illustrate the impact that Hunter’s unique style had on the campus—an impact that was as influential as it was historical.