Did you know that there is a meaning behind the three gigantic doors to Rush Rhees Library? The doors are named for the past, the present and the future. The type of knowledge that students seek is indicated by the doors through which they walk.
Former professor John Rothwell Slater wrote the compositions that appear beneath the the grilles on the doors. The doors on the left when entering Rush Rhees are named for the past: “The door of the past opens to those who seek to know what has been.”
The doors in the middle are the present and “open to those who seek to know what man can do.” And the doors on the far right are of the future, for those “who wonder what life may become.” The complete inscriptions are carved in the doors.
The doors are teakwood and the heavy glass is protected by the bronze grilles. The UR seal emblazons the two grills on the center doors.
Rush Rhees was designed when UR moved to the River Campus in October, 1930. The architecture is Greek Revival and its elements are evident upon a closer look at the doors.
Within the doors are sculpted owls, which are associated with Athena, the greek goddess of wisdom and also appear on the coinage of the ancient city of Athens. They were often used to decorate Greek temples to ward off evil spirits.
The owl motif is found throughout Rush Rhees. During the library’s recent renovation, the owl motif and the sculptural patterns that were copied on the inside partitions that lead to the main hall.
Elements of Greek architecture appear throughout the River Campus. Its purpose was to preserve the ancient Greek traditions of learning as well as set the foundation for architectural tradition at UR.