STREET: In Defense of: The Architecture Building

Staff Writer

Admission decisions have just been announced for the Class of 2017. As this select group of students tries to decide whether or not they want to attend Princeton (the choice is obvious, really) they will, among other things, be visiting campus, taking tours and poring over guidebooks and brochures.

And what will they see in all of this? What will they admire? The elegant arches of Holder courtyard, perhaps, or the magnificence of the chapel (they’ll be told that it’s the second largest University chapel in the world)? They might stop to admire the elegance of East Pyne, the simplicity of Nassau Hall or the grandeur of Blair Arch. Maybe they’ll be fascinated by Lewis Library or the glass facade at the back of Frist Campus Center. Whatever the case, Princeton is renowned for its stunning architecture. As these innocent and naive young prospective freshmen walk about campus, admiring and asking questions, you should feel it is your duty, as a Princeton student who upholds the Honor Code (in all aspects of life) to direct these visitors to the School of Architecture.

“Excuse me?” you think. “You want them to see the Architecture Building? The one the Orange Key tour guides are continually reprimanded for mocking? The ironically unattractive Architecture Building? That ugly thing?”

Now wait a minute. Perhaps the building doesn’t have the same commanding elegance and presence that the old collegiate Gothic architecture or the ivy on Nassau Hall hold. But you can’t deny that the large glass windows create interesting reflections of the opposing Marx Hall and of students as they pass between classes (a good time to check if there’s spinach in your teeth). At night, when the lights are on, (for we all know that architecture students keep late hours), these same windows provide a welcome glow of fluorescent, yellow civilization on your way back from the Street, or as you wander toward, or away from late meal. You can inform the prospective students you’ve encountered that, as they’ve most likely heard, Princeton is a place that has a really strong sense of community, where students create close bonds and friendships and everyone feels like family. The Architecture Building is only reflecting (with those large glass windows) the Princeton spirit and allows students to look in and see themselves as Princetonians amid their fellow Tigers. Think of it as the Architecture Building’s Mirror of Erised to Rocky’s Great Hall.

With all the gray, Gothic architecture around, the brick Architecture Building is really a nice change. We wouldn’t want things to get monotonous, would we? Besides, the thought of bricks makes us think of the other brick architecture on campus, mainly Nassau Hall, the original University building, one dear to the hearts of all loyal alums. But there are also the brick walls of Wilson College, built during the 1960s, and named for the President we can’t seem to stop mentioning. How can you, hater of the School of Architecture building, not feel embarrassment at thus also degrading the names of Nassau and dear Woodrow in your disgust? Shame on you!

Even if you believe that the aesthetics of the Architecture Building are indefensibly unsightly, perhaps it still deserves your respect. For, located at the center of campus and on the path of every tour, the Architecture Building is not something we can scurry past and hide from tour groups, as we do the unseemly buildings of down campus. No, we cannot deny the existence of the Architecture Building. The alternative is to recognize that, as an example of uninspiring architecture in the middle of campus, it serves to enhance the beauty of the buildings around it. In doing so, it gives us a greater appreciation of the buildings that are “classic” Princeton. Instead of shaking our heads as we pass or averting our eyes in mortification, when asked by prospective students what “that” building is, we should look upon the Architecture Building with gratitude and respect. The School of Architecture has made the sacrifice of its own exterior beauty in order to highlight the Gothic architecture that we claim characterizes Princeton. An act so noble and beyond our ability to praise that all we can say is, “Stay classy, School of Architecture.”


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