Tulane’s mismatched architecture hinders campus cohesion

Just this week, U.S. News and World Report came out with its vaguely titled “Best College Rankings,” solidifying the rampant anxieties of students everywhere. A quick glance at the top five universities includes all the usual champions: Princeton, Harvard, Columbia, Yale, etc. Now I beg of you – what do all of these schools have in common?

You might be thinking, well-staffed research facilities. Hefty endowments. Impressive rosters of internationally-lauded professors. A lot of wealthy white people.

But, no. What they all have in common is a basic level of architectural cohesion on their campuses.

Ivy League universities peddle in creamy marble facades, solemn brick buildings, crisp stone rotundas, Romanesque columns. They have libraries that rival the Hogwarts dining hall, lush green quads littered with autumn leaves – and all the buildings look like they belong together.

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Contrary to what the name might suggest, Tulane has yet to pick an architectural lane and stay in it. Forget two lanes, we have four or five. Or seven. We have modern buildings, post-modern buildings, post-post-modern buildings, Gothics, Roman, Romantic, Medieval and a tiny outdoor classroom that has yet to find its purpose in the world.

No wonder Tulane’s place in the “Best College Rankings” is dropping. Everywhere you look, our already troubled students are distracted by yet another architectural monstrosity just around the corner. How are we supposed to focus on our studies when every time our backs are turned, construction begins on yet another mismatched building?

The Berger Family Lawn (formerly the Lavin Bernick Center Quadrangle) is a perfect example. On its west end, you see Newcomb Hall, the picture of collegiate architecture with rosy bricks and stone columns. On the other end, you’ll find McAlister auditorium, also perfectly respectable with an impressive façade and even a dome. In the middle? A kerfuffle of glass and polished chrome from the LBC, a few mismatched dorms, and a low-lying art museum thrown in for good measure. You can get a scenic view of this architectural hodgepodge from the top floor of Howard Tilton Memorial Library, a building which doesn’t even manage to match itself, let alone the buildings around it.

So while construction might have already begun on the new building which President Mike Fitts has deemed “spectacular,” one wonders if the administration might take even a moment to glance around what is already an architectural disaster before they decide to plop down yet another post-modern nightmare without a second thought. Some brick, perhaps. Some marble. Something that might endure the 21st century both in physicality and in style.