10 Cool College Landmarks

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Iowa State's distinguishing landmark is the campanile. Just thought I'd work that in there. I'd introduce you guys to Andréa, but you already know her as the author of the "Feel Art Again" posts here on mental_floss. A quick recap, though: Andréa attends Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia and is our resident art historian. -Stacy Conradt

10 Cool College Landmarks
by Andréa Fernandes

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Each college needs something to make them stand out, whether it's a famous grad, a spook legend, or an awesome architectural wonder. After searching far and wide for cool college buildings, I'm beginning to wonder if I made the right college decision after all... Oh, who am I kidding, I love my school.

Anyway, I now present to you, in no particular order, 10 college landmarks that just might inspire you to go back to college.

1. Stata Center

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MIT's three-year-old Computer, Information, and Intelligence Sciences Center contains research facilities, classrooms, an auditorium, fitness facilities, a childcare center, and even "social areas" along an "interior student street." Designed by Frank Gehry and highly praised for its unique design, the building has not been without problems. Evidently, MIT has paid $1.5 million to fix problems that include cracks, drainage backups, and mold; the school is now suing Gehry for neglect, including the construction company as well.

2. Nott Memorial

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The centerpiece of Union College, in upstate New York, is the 16-sided memorial to the school's 1804-1866 president, Eliphalet Nott, whose tenure is the longest of any American college president. Over 130 years old, the building is a National Historic Landmark and houses the Mandeville Gallery for art, science, and history exhibitions.

3. Sun Yat-Sen Hall

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At St. John's University in Queens, NY, the Institute of Asian Studies is housed in Sun Yat-Sen Hall. Concerns arose at the school in fall 2006, when rumors surfaced that the treasured building would be demolished and replaced with new offices and a cafeteria. Thankfully, the pagoda was merely up for a renovation. The Dr. M.T. Geoffrey Yeh Art Gallery is also located in the building; display items in the gallery are about 50 percent Chinese, 50 percent Japanese, and include a samurai sword.

4. Grey Towers Castle

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Arcadia University's trademark castle is 110 years old and is home to the Mirror Room (the ballroom of years past), a Grand Hall (with a carved wood staircase), student residences, and, of course, gargoyles. The castle, which was designed by Horace Trumbauer, was inspired by Alnick Castle in England. If you're ever in the Philadelphia area in October, you can stop in for the school's annual Haunted Castle event.

5. Student Center

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Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) only acquired its student center four years ago. The building, now almost 100-years-old, was originally the Congregation B'nai B'rith Synagogue and has also housed St. Andrew's Independent Episcopal Church. Featuring balconies, carved wooden pillars, Moorish-style domes, and stained glass, the student center now houses a café, a SCAD-designed bench, workstations, and Napping Pods.

6. Cadet Chapel

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The United States Air Force Academy's 150-feet chapel actually houses three chapels—Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish—as well as two worship rooms for people of any faith. Walter Netsch, Jr.'s creation is made of aluminum, glass, and steel with 17 spires, though apparently, "There is no significance to this number."

7. Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium:

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The auditorium at Arizona State University was one of Frank Lloyd Wright's last works. Built in 1964, the auditorium was designed by Wright to be "as acoustically perfect as possible." Apparently, Wright played a joke on the school (supposedly for turning down his original idea): from overhead, Gammage looks like a toilet. (Check it out on Google Maps if you don't believe me.)

8. Library/ETC

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At Evergreen Valley College, a community college in California, the combined library and educational technology center contains 21st-century resources in an environment that provides an "indoor/outdoor feel." The building, which has no specific back, contains "branches" that support the elevated ceiling in the reading room. The many windows let in ample natural light for a comfortable reading atmosphere. Designed by Steinberg Architects, the building received an Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects' chapter in Santa Clara Valley.

9. Memorial Church

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The chapel at Stanford is decorated with mosaics with tiles in over 20,000 shades of color. Known as "MemChu," the chapel has been the wedding site for 7,500 couples in the last 105 years. The chapel contains four organs and the university organist has been known to treat early morning visitors to impromptu concerts.

And finally, one that was just to good not to include, even if it's not in the States...

10. School of Drama

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In Melbourne, Australia, Victorian College of the Arts' School of Drama is a whimsical building that houses class, lecture, and performance spaces. A performance was held inside before the building was even completed! Designed by the architectural firm CS+T, the school "features random balconies with perforated metal balustrades, curved and skewed walls in an array of contrasting colours and a series of non-rectilinear windows." The drawbacks to a building this cool are the potential safety and access problems; fortunately, these were dealt with "very successfully."

I know there's no way I found all the cool college architecture, so tell me:
What's the coolest or most unique college building you've ever seen?

Check out the rest of our College Weekend festivities.

February 9, 2008 - 3:26am
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