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Noted Portland architect, Pietro Belluschi, designed the northern portion of Smullin Hall as the university's main library. It is architecturally significant as an early example of Belluschi's work, where he embraced certain elements of modernism, a characteristic that would inform his later work more concertedly, as in his design for the Portland Art Museum. Perhaps in deference to Willamette University officials, Belluschi employed many Georgian revival elements: tall multi-paned, arched windows with over-scaled keystones, Palladian windows on the east and west facades, and a slate, hipped roof with cupola, all references to late eighteenth-century architecture at the College of William and Mary. Yoked with these traditional forms, Belluschi also used elements of modern design: geometic simplicity, a tight fit of roof to walls, and poured concrete wall construction faced with brick. It thus offers a surprisingly early and unusual combination of stylized historic references with streamlined modernity. The colonial revival vocabulary seen in Smullin Hall reflect the larger trend of interest in that period in American architecture.
The building is in excellent condition although architecturally compromised following a major renovation in ca. 1980. At that time, the two-story reading room was converted into two floors that then housed faculty and administrative offices, computer laboratories, and classrooms. On the exterior, the building retains its original design except for the relocation of the cupola.