Ever since the Fraser Centre opened in downtown State College in 2016, rumors have quietly swirled about the colorful tile wall that runs along the Fraser Street side of the 13-story building, beneath the entrance to Target and Federal Taphouse.
While there appears to be no obvious rhyme or reason to the haphazard multicolored design, it turns out that there is indeed something to the rumors, according to Gary Brandeis, one of the building’s co-developers and president of Real Estate Capital Management in Ardmore.
Before revealing the details, Brandeis explained, “Because of the slope of the site from Beaver Avenue down to Calder Way, in order to achieve the design goals of the building we had to build a retaining wall on Fraser Street. Under the (State College) Borough’s building codes, we had to put something on the retaining wall that was considered art.”
Brandeis, a 1988 graduate of Penn State’s Smeal College of Business, held a brainstorming session with his architect to come up with an idea for some artwork that might be appropriate.
“We decided to do this multicolored wall. There’s a base blue background tile, and then interspersed through that background are 409 other color tiles, representing the 409 football games that the Penn State football team won under Coach Paterno,” he said. “So each colored tile is the school color of a team Penn State defeated. They’re placed in random order, in a way that we felt looked good.”
Great care was taken to ensure that each square tile matches its represented team’s official color as closely as possible, Brandeis said.
“There’s a Syracuse orange for each time the team beat Syracuse, crimson for the times they beat Alabama, and so forth,” he said.
“It’s a colorful, bright design that really lights up Fraser Street — a nice addition to the downtown that just sort of happens to have something special inside of it,” he said. “It was a way for us to create an interesting piece of art on the wall, but also a subtle way to use this space to honor a great accomplishment for the Penn State football team and the community in general.”
Brandeis said until now, few people have been privy to the details behind the design’s “message.”
“It’s not something we kept secret; we just never really talk about it,” he said. “There’s no plaque describing it, there’s nothing official. We’re not looking for publicity or notoriety. We just thought it was a cool thing to do.”