The Kiva was a unique piece of architecture on the U of I campus. Perched atop a pedestal, it looked like a recently alighted spacecraft. Companionways reached out to connect it with its sister facility the College of Education Building. The Kiva was demolished in 2014 as part of the COE Building renovation.
These were the first buildings constructed on campus dedicated to the College of Education’s use. In 1962, the majority of University of Idaho students were in education and suffered from cramped conditions and a lack of demonstration rooms. The college dean was forced to store student records out on a balcony.
While outlining plans for the new building, it was realized that two were needed: an industrial education building and a main education building. Everett Samuelson, Dean of the College of Education also wanted a full auditorium, but the U.S. Department of Education refused to fund it. By changing the hall to a “kiva” he was able to “finesse the project” which the Board of Regents called “Samuelson’s Carrousel.
Samuelson instructed Architect Chet Shawver, with Hummell, Hummell, Jones, and Shawver out of Boise, to use the at Michigan State University and the University of New Mexico kiva lecture halls as examples. Kivas are often found below ground, but U of I’s would be elevated on a pillar. Samuelson wanted the facility to move beyond theory and host innovative teaching and research.
Construction broke ground in 1967 and the building occupied three years later.
The Kiva also hosted teen conferences, dance theatre shows, Summer Theatre shows, and the juggling club. It served as a clinic site during the annual Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival where jazz techniques were demonstrated and discussed. Ray Briggs, ethnomusicologist, Corey Christiansen, guitarist, and Grace Kelly, saxophonist, were among the professionals who held clinics there.
In 1999, the Kiva was remodeled from a lecture hall into a permanent theatre for the Theatre Arts Department.
Finally, a complete renovation of the buildings could no longer be avoided. The Education building’s exterior threatened to fall off in pieces; it and the Kiva needed asbestos abatement; and infrastructure needed upgrading for new technologies. After a facility evaluation, it was determined that updating the Kiva was not feasible. It was torn down in 2014 and the theatre was relocated to the old industrial technology building. The Forge Theatre stages small shows there to this day.
What began as a hall to fill a need within the College of Education (now College of Education, Health and Human Sciences) became a space that served many. People were brought together in an exchange of ideas and understanding whether it was through musical demonstration, theatrical performance or oratory lecture.
This post is derived from a Latah County Historical Society Legacy article by Ariana Burns and Dusty Fleener published in 2016.
Envision Magazine, 2011.
Overholtzer, Pamela, 2014, University of Idaho, KIVA Building, HABS ID-122-H. Historic American Buildings Survey.
Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival Program, 2014.