Forum

University’s buildings exhibit unique style

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Campus Squeeze, a college reviews and rankings website, recently ranked Carnegie Mellon No. 5 on its list of “Ugliest Colleges in the U.S.A.” The site claims it gathers support for its rankings from online input and student opinions — for Carnegie Mellon’s ranking, a student post on a message board is quoted as saying, “I don’t think its buildings or classrooms would meet the local building codes in my town.”

While the legitimacy of this ranking may be argued — especially when other recent article headlines on the website read “Slow Motion Sneezing Is As Disgusting As It Is Hilarious” and “Yes, Naked Fat Men Make Us Want To Drink Soda” — the title of fifth-ugliest university in the country, regardless of who bestows it, should certainly give the campus administration pause as the architecture of campus buildings is considered.

With space along Forbes Avenue awaiting construction and the next decade’s master plan for campus development nearing completion, questions of building aesthetics may be more crucial now than ever. And while the issue may not be as simple as “ugly” or “beautiful,” as the Campus Squeeze article would suggest, the issue of classic beauty versus temporal appeal is worth discussion.

Buildings on campus fall squarely into two categories: those whose architecture draws on the traditional style you may expect of academic buildings (consider the College of Fine Arts or the Mellon Institute) versus those buildings whose architecture attempts to encapsulate Carnegie Mellon’s belief in innovation and breaking with accepted standards (consider Scaife Hall, with its chip-shaped roof, or Donner House, with its blue-tiled facade).

For an ideal example of the second category, take a look at Wean Hall. The concrete, parking-garage influence may have been a cutting-edge example of Brutalist architecture when the building was constructed in 1971, but today there is nothing inspiring about the design — except maybe the dreams of transformation associated with its bottle-cap-filled holes.

If Wean was once considered to be the peak of innovative architecture, only to descend to the most-despised building on campus, we can only imagine what future generations of Carnegie Mellon students will say about the Gates Hillman Complex.