I should preface this by saying that I am the son of an architect. I spent my childhood on family vacations dominated by the observation and photography of architecturally significant buildings, and my tendency to criticize the architecture around me is much more a curse than a blessing. But it has been bred into me from an early age, and the fact is I can’t help it.
There is good architecture on this campus, don’t get me wrong. The Wade King Student Recreation Center is modern and glassy without being ostentatious, the Environmental Studies Building is a decent example of 1970s brutalism and Academic Instructional Center West makes great use of natural light. And of course, Old Main is spectacular.
But it was the short-sighted construction projects between 1959 and 1969 that produced the most disastrous results. Odd geometric shapes, tiny windows, superfluous and oddly shaped columns, Formica and a color palette ranging from floral to orange, with an array of browns and beiges in between, were at some point considered “pleasant.”
One of the worst motifs that managed to attach itself, virus-like, to many of the mid century buildings on campus is the repeated obtuse triangle. It defines the roof line of Carver Academic Facility and the entry ways to the Humanities Building, and crowns the top edge of most of the buildings on the Ridge.
It’s not exactly easy to explain why it’s bad. I see them as angry eyebrows drawn on face of an unsuspecting building by some sadistic child.
But this is where my architectural snobbery makes my life worse, because while everyone else walks through campus at ease, at least in terms of architecture, I sense the constant angry eyebrows staring down at me. I don’t know if the giant ones that hang over Carver are worse than the dozens that sit above every single window on every side of Humanities.
In the library, I look for any chair upholstered in not-orange. It’s a load of completely unnecessary stress, and the truth is that all of these buildings serve their purpose adequately. The Ridge isn’t that bad of a place to live [yeah, I live there], Carver is perfectly good place to watch a basketball game [even if it may be on the verge of collapse - see AS Legislative Agenda 2014] and plenty of people survive their classes in Humanities without ever noticing those angry eyebrows above all the windows.
I’m certainly not saying we should all rise up and demand brand new, beautiful buildings. I guess one of the great things about Western is that we get the most out of everything we have. No matter how ugly a chair might be, if it’s still functional then there’s really no good reason to get rid of it.
But I have to stand by what I know, and what I know is that, though it may not hurt anyone else, though it may not really even affect my education in any way, shape or form, there are some ugly buildings on this campus. More than anything, I think I needed to get these thoughts off my chest. To you who have read this to the end, you probably think I’m being a bit overdramatic. You might just be confused.
Either way, whatever you think of me, I’d like to thank you for letting me unload this obnoxious criticism onto you. And on the other hand, if the angry eyebrows haunt you too, if you also are the spawn of an architect, then I am truly sorry, and I hope we can find solidarity in this burden we share.