Cult Rooms: Black Mountain CollegeBlack Mountain College was an incubator for visionary designers, but the campus itself was a hodgepodge of styles—and a health and safety nightmare.

Cult Rooms: Black Mountain CollegeBlack Mountain College was an incubator for visionary designers, but the campus itself was a hodgepodge of styles—and a health and safety nightmare.

As is often the case with bright-burning ideas, the lore surrounding Black Mountain College looms much larger than the project itself. The hype is understandable: Over the course of just 24 years, in a hamlet in rural North Carolina, the college established itself as an inflection point in the trajectory of 20th-century art and education. Founded in 1933, the school was the ideological heir of Germany’s famed Bauhaus school, and provided refuge and employment for artists and scholars fleeing rising fascism in Europe. Many of the students who attended the college would go on to comprise the vanguard of the avant-garde in the 1950s, ’60s, and beyond; these included Cy Twombly, Merce Cunningham, John Cage and Allen Ginsberg.  

Admirers may have assumed that Black Mountain College—the...

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