Print View - Return to Normal View

Look Up and Learn

By Kristen Hardy '17

Published Oct 1, 2017 9:00 AM

At UCLA, teaching isn’t confined to classrooms — even the buildings offer a lesson or two.


A portion of the mosaic panels on the Schoenberg Music Building. Photos by Reed Hutchinson.

With didactic murals on Schoenberg and Knudsen halls as well as on the Mathematical Sciences Building, it’s clear that the UCLA faculty isn’t the only source of knowledge here. The campus mosaics also teach.

In fall 1955, UCLA opened one of the most modern music education facilities of the time, now known as the Schoenberg Music Building. Years of intensive planning and research preceded construction, and the building includes such features as fiberglass insulation to prevent sound from carrying, labs for the study of the psychology of music and 66 basement practice rooms.

To give passersby a taste of music education, the front of the building presents a mosaic designed by Richard Haines that tells the story of the history of music from a global perspective. After growing up on a farm in Iowa, Haines got his artistic start as a designer at a greeting card company and then at a calendar firm before attending the Minneapolis School of Art and the École des Beaux Arts in France. Upon his return to the U.S., Haines was part of several New Deal mural projects and eventually made his way to Los Angeles to work for Douglas Aircraft during WWII.

The Schoenberg mosaic is 164 feet long and uses more than 2,000 colors in its representations of the tribal drum and hunting horn, Gregorian chant, a jazz ensemble, a mandolin player and more.

Haines’ abstract style is even more evident in the mosaic he created in 1963 for the new Physics Building, later named Knudsen Hall. Purposely lacking any depictions of people or narrative flow, the Knudsen piece features a compilation of interwoven equations, formulas and geometry. Binary codes, E = mc2 and other concepts line the building.


Six years later, artist Joseph Young created a third campus mosaic, on the Mathematical Sciences Building. This mosaic depicts math as a universal language by showcasing mathematical contributions of the early Egyptians, Babylonians, Romans, Chinese, explorers of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and contemporary scientists.

After working in New York and Italy, Young moved to Los Angeles in 1952 when he received a fellowship from the Huntington Hartford Foundation. He created his first public art project in Los Angeles and went on to create more than 60 architectural art projects around the country. His UCLA work weighs nearly 80,000 pounds and covers more than 1,000 square feet as it wraps around three sides of the building.

UCLA wasn’t the only institution investing in mosaics in the 1950s and ’60s. Iconic Home Savings and Loan bank murals across Los Angeles showcase the mid-century boom of public art. Both Haines and Young created other pieces around the city, too, including the downtown Federal Building mosaic and the Triforium at the Los Angeles Civic Center.