December 12, 2007
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Ugly Campuses (and pundits with bad taste)

This list of the twenty ugliest college campuses in the USA is interesting. The writer doesn't like unfashionable colors, doesn't like modern brick, and hates concrete. Some of the nominees make a lot of sense.

But, seriously: IIT?

They need to get better architects at these schools. The low-rise buildings are so nasty and dull that they feel like a blast from the past. Some serious renovation is in dire need at this school. Only the Main building is okay, but the rest just falls short with its flat, square-ish design that feels like an office complex.

Excuse me! The reason it feels like an office complex is that this Mies van der Rohe campus has been the touchstone for every Modern office complex since World War II. It's got Crown Hall, which is among the best of Mies and a Great Building, and it's also got a remarkable Koolhaas building. How many US colleges have two Great buildings? Harvard, maybe: two important Richardsons and the only Corbusier on the continent. UVa with its Jefferson complex.

On the "beautiful" side, I detect a tendency to embrace kitsch and climate. Face it: it's a lot easier for UC Santa Cruz to look great than it is for Yale or Texas A&M. (They do get Swarthmore, though, so points there!)