Architecture plays a central role in society, reflecting the culture of the times and providing the infrastructure in which citizens live. Buildings encompass functional, environmental, and aesthetic elements, and are often considered works of art in their own right.
Following the Morrill Act of 1862, which granted each state in the United States a portion of land on which to establish a public state university, Urbana, IL was chosen as the site for the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. One of the advantages of Urbana had over other potential locations was the Urbana and Champaign Institute, a brand new school building ready for immediate use. Known as the University Building, the Old Main University Building, and even the "Elephant" Building, it was used for both classroom and dormitory space until other buildings were erected. When it was destroyed by a storm in 1880, it was simply a dormitory. The Mechanical Building and Drill Hall were erected in 1872, with more buildings to quickly follow.
Several architects have been instrumental in transforming the University of Illinois campus into what it is today, including Nathan Clifford Ricker, the first person to receive a degree in architecture in the United States. Numerous campus buildings have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Round Dairy Barns, the Main Library, and Altgeld Hall.
In the fall of 2013, undergraduate students in an Architecture 101 survey course at the University of Illinois worked in groups to develop information about the locations within this tour.