Unpacking Architecture: Stern Hall myth debunked


Courtesy of Infrogmation

Stern Hall’s unique design has been the subject of Tulane myth for years. Contrary to popular belief, the windows do not spell out a message.

At Tulane, Percival Stern Hall houses the laboratory sciences. Students across academic fields, however, have come to know Stern Hall as the oddly designed building with the encoded windows.

A fun fact often overheard on a Green Wave Ambassador tour is that the windows of Stern Hall were created to depict an old school programming computer punch card, and should you feed that punch card into a computer it would spell out “Go Tulane. Beat LSU.”

Some have contended that the code was not “Beat LSU,” but “Fuck LSU.”

“We don’t have any proof,” said Shelby Strattan, president of Green Wave Ambassadors. “In our tour script [we have] one sentence saying, ‘Fun fact, the strange design of this building is actually rumored to be computer code for ‘Go Tulane, Beat LSU.””

Seamlessly, the myth of the Percival Stern Hall windows has been passed down by students and teachers for generations.

“‘Go Tulane, Beat LSU’ is a nice story, but not true,” Janet Ruscher, chair of the Department of Psychology, said. “When Percival Stern was in the designing stages, the professors who required offices were asked if they wanted to have a window or not.”

According to Sharon Obrofta, administrative secretary for the Psychology Department, during the 1970s when Stern Hall was built, “professors needed lab space with darkrooms to process film.” There is a noticeable lack of windows on the fourth floor, as those are mostly chemistry lab floors.

“Take for instance, photographing cell structure under a microscope – you would need a camera to shoot a photograph of the image and a darkroom to process the film since we did not have desktop computers to capture the image,” Obrofta said.

Further research shows that most computer punch cards require at least 12 lines of coding. The Stern Hall windows depict only three lines for three floors of windows.

“[It’s] just kind of a fun fact fact to keep it light on the tours,” Strattan said. 

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