Terrace Views

Throwback Thursday: Unloading an innovative solution

Take a look back with us each week with Throwback Thursdays, including a special series this month on the odd and interesting original design flaws of Memorial Union. For all its beauty and functionality, Memorial Union opened with a long list of design flaws, some truly baffling that will finally be addressed through the Memorial Union Reinvestment. We’re eager to hear your stories and memories from the Union as well, so share in the comments section below!


It is perhaps the most unattractive feature of Memorial Union. Negatively on all senses is the building’s loading dock and dumpster storage off the east side. It looks dirty. It’s noisy. And it smells.

The loading dock area is not a new problem. In fact, Memorial Union has been combating the original loading dock design for the last 85 years. In a 1979 interview, the Union’s first director, Porter Butts, explains the woes of working in a building that was not designed with the proper trash collection or loading dock to service thousands of events and guests a week:

You see, the Union sat here on the lakeshore with the winter winds blowing against the building and trucks arrived by the dozens every day to deliver foods and supplies, and so on. And there was a completely exposed outdoor lift that they were to set their things onto and let the lift carry them down to the basement. This was in the bitter cold windy weather. The wind blew the waste paper all over the lower campus. There was no place to stash away garbage cans except on the outside sidewalks, a very unsightly mess, very difficult to handle.”  

Nearly nine decades later, this problem may finally be history. Phase II of the Memorial Union Reinvestment calls for a very practical, yet genius solution: put the garbage and loading dock completely out of sight. Put it underground.

Proposed rendering for Phase II of the Memorial Union Reinvestment, showing an underground loading dock and trash collection point. (Credit: Uihelin Wilson/ Moody Nolan)

An underground loading dock is proposed for construction below the former Lot 1, the future home of Alumni Park. Trucks access the dock from Langdon Street and pull onto a platform. The rotating platform would then turn the truck 180 degrees to allow for easy delivery. The new dock would serve not just Memorial Union, but the Red Gym, Pyle Center and Alumni Place as well. Trash collection would also move underground.

No more dodging trucks on your way to the Terrace. No more smelly trash. Only the sound of bands, conversation and laughter. Thanks to an innovative idea, an early design oversight may soon be meeting its solution.


Mark Bennett is project coordinator for the Memorial Union Reinvestment. A graduate of UW-Madison and self-proclaimed campus history nut, Mark has been known to lose hours of his life at a time sifting through old campus photos and stories. He’s also been known to spend similarly endless hours sitting on the Terrace.

Author: terraceviews-admin

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