The Colvard building, named after UNC Charlotte’s first chancellor, is so difficult to navigate that people rumor it was modeled after neurological pathways. Supposedly the design is a tribute to the psychology department, which it houses.
This rumor, while fun to speculate, is false. Al Maisto, former Bonnie E. Cone Distinguished professor and associate dean of the Honors College, says that the Colvard building was not modeled after neurological pathways.
“The word ‘neuroscience,’ for example, didn’t even emerge until the 1990s, and that building was built in the ‘70s,” he said.
The Colvard building turns out to be a result of modern architecture. After the building was finished, many problems arose, including confusing passageways and the strange numerical order of the rooms. According to Maisto, there was no reason why the Colvard building was designed the way it was.
Harry Wolf designed the building in the late 70s to include energy-saving features, including vermiculite insulation roofing, insulated walls and a heat reclaimer, according to an article from Inside UNC Charlotte. These design techniques were rare during their day.
According to James Whitt, administrative specialist for the psychology department, there are two main reasons that the Colvard building is difficult to navigate: the building is split into two parts and numbered in a nonsensical order. Whitt has been working at UNC Charlotte for about four and a half years and is a former student of the psychology department at the university, which helped him learn quite a bit about the building.
The Colvard building is split into two parts, Colvard North and Colvard South, but is numbered as if it were one building.
“One, three, and four are on Colvard South, and then two and five are on Colvard North, and it has to do with the way they built it because it is on a bit of a slope,” Whitt said.
“On the inside of the building on each floor, as they do renovations and everything, they keep the existing numbering and just add new numbers to it,” Whitt said. An example he used to describe this rearrangement was how rooms 4102 and 4103 used to be connected by a pathway, but after remodeling, people had to go down different hallways to reach them.
Soon after it was built, Colvard was referred to as a maze because of the twisting internal hallways. “Everybody knew every building, and that was the building that you kind of went to get lost in these weird hallways,” he said. When walking down a hallway, there are doors that lead to other hallways.
“The building is a very uncomfortable place to be,” Maisto said.
Confusing and uncomfortable though it may be, this is certainly not the design of a neuroscientist looking to shout out the psychology department.