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10 Cool College Landmarks

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

andrea-fernandes.jpg

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.

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entertainment
13 Fascinating Facts About Nina Simone
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Nina Simone, who would’ve celebrated her 85th birthday today, was known for using her musical platform to speak out. “I think women play a major part in opening the doors for better understanding around the world,” the “Strange Fruit” songstress once said. Though she chose to keep her personal life shrouded in secrecy, these facts grant VIP access into a life well-lived and the music that still lives on.

1. NINA SIMONE WAS HER STAGE NAME.

The singer was born as Eunice Waymon on February 21, 1933. But by age 21, the North Carolina native was going by a different name at her nightly Atlantic City gig: Nina Simone. She hoped that adopting a different name would keep her mother from finding out about her performances. “Nina” was her boyfriend’s nickname for her at the time. “Simone” was inspired by Simone Signoret, an actress that the singer admired.

2. SHE HAD HUMBLE BEGINNINGS.


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There's a reason that much of the singer's music had gospel-like sounds. Simone—the daughter of a Methodist minister and a handyman—was raised in the church and started playing the piano by ear at age 3. She got her start in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, where she played gospel hymns and classical music at Old St. Luke’s CME, the church where her mother ministered. After Simone died on April 21, 2003, she was memorialized at the same sanctuary.

3. SHE WAS BOOK SMART...

Simone, who graduated valedictorian of her high school class, studied at the prestigious Julliard School of Music for a brief period of time before applying to Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. Unfortunately, Simone was denied admission. For years, she maintained that her race was the reason behind the rejection. But a Curtis faculty member, Vladimir Sokoloff, has gone on record to say that her skin color wasn’t a factor. “It had nothing to do with her…background,” he said in 1992. But Simone ended up getting the last laugh: Two days before her death, the school awarded her an honorary degree.

4. ... WITH DEGREES TO PROVE IT.

Simone—who preferred to be called “doctor Nina Simone”—was also awarded two other honorary degrees, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Malcolm X College.

5. HER CAREER WAS ROOTED IN ACTIVISM.

A photo of Nina Simone circa 1969

Gerrit de Bruin

At the age of 12, Simone refused to play at a church revival because her parents had to sit at the back of the hall. From then on, Simone used her art to take a stand. Many of her songs in the '60s, including “Mississippi Goddamn,” “Why (The King of Love Is Dead),” and “Young, Gifted and Black,” addressed the rampant racial injustices of that era.

Unfortunately, her activism wasn't always welcome. Her popularity diminished; venues didn’t invite her to perform, and radio stations didn’t play her songs. But she pressed on—even after the Civil Rights Movement. In 1997, Simone told Interview Magazine that she addressed her songs to the third world. In her own words: “I’m a real rebel with a cause.”

6. ONE OF HER MOST FAMOUS SONGS WAS BANNED.

Mississippi Goddam,” her 1964 anthem, only took her 20 minutes to an hour to write, according to legend—but it made an impact that still stands the test of time. When she wrote it, Simone had been fed up with the country’s racial unrest. Medger Evers, a Mississippi-born civil rights activist, was assassinated in his home state in 1963. That same year, the Ku Klux Klan bombed a Birmingham Baptist church and as a result, four young black girls were killed. Simone took to her notebook and piano to express her sentiments.

“Alabama's gotten me so upset/Tennessee made me lose my rest/And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam,” she sang.

Some say that the song was banned in Southern radio stations because “goddam” was in the title. But others argue that the subject matter is what caused the stations to return the records cracked in half.

7. SHE NEVER HAD A NUMBER ONE HIT.

Nina Simone released over 40 albums during her decades-spanning career including studio albums, live versions, and compilations, and scored 15 Grammy nominations. But her highest-charting (and her first) hit, “I Loves You, Porgy,” peaked at #2 on the U.S. R&B charts in 1959. Still, her music would go on to influence legendary singers like Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin.

8. SHE USED HER STYLE TO MAKE A STATEMENT.

Head wraps, bold jewelry, and floor-skimming sheaths were all part of Simone’s stylish rotation. In 1967, she wore the same black crochet fishnet jumpsuit with flesh-colored lining for the entire year. Not only did it give off the illusion of her being naked, but “I wanted people to remember me looking a certain way,” she said. “It made it easier for me.”

9. SHE HAD MANY HOMES.

New York City, Liberia, Barbados, England, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands were all places that Simone called home. She died at her home in Southern France, and her ashes were scattered in several African countries.

10. SHE HAD A FAMOUS INNER CIRCLE.

During the late '60s, Simone and her second husband Andrew Stroud lived next to Malcolm X and his family in Mount Vernon, New York. He wasn't her only famous pal. Simone was very close with playwright Lorraine Hansberry. After Hansberry’s death, Simone penned “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” in her honor, a tribute to Hansberry's play of the same title. Simone even struck up a brief friendship with David Bowie in the mid-1970s, who called her every night for a month to offer his advice and support.

11. YOU CAN STILL VISIT SIMONE IN HER HOMETOWN.

Photo of Nina Simone
Amazing Nina Documentary Film, LLC, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, an 8-foot sculpture of Eunice Waymon was erected in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina. Her likeness stands tall in Nina Simone Plaza, where she’s seated and playing an eternal song on a keyboard that floats in midair. Her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, gave sculptor Zenos Frudakis some of Simone’s ashes to weld into the sculpture’s bronze heart. "It's not something very often done, but I thought it was part of the idea of bringing her home," Frudakis said.

12. YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD HER MUSIC IN RECENT HITS.

Rihanna sang a few verses of Simone’s “Do What You Gotta Do” on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. He’s clearly a superfan: “Blood on the Leaves” and his duet with Jay Z, “New Day,” feature Simone samples as well, along with Lil’ Wayne’s “Dontgetit,” Common’s “Misunderstood” and a host of other tracks.

13. HER MUSIC IS STILL BEING PERFORMED.

Nina Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone was released along with the Netflix documentary in 2015. On the album, Lauryn Hill, Jazmine Sullivan, Usher, Alice Smith, and more paid tribute to the legend by performing covers of 16 of her most famous tracks.

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Animals
Watch the First-Ever Footage of a Baby Dumbo Octopus
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Dumbo octopuses are named for the elephant-ear-like fins they use to navigate the deep sea, but until recently, when and how they developed those floppy appendages were a mystery. Now, for the first time, researchers have caught a newborn Dumbo octopus on tape. As reported in the journal Current Biology, they discovered that the creatures are equipped with the fins from the moment they hatch.

Study co-author Tim Shank, a researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, spotted the octopus in 2005. During a research expedition in the North Atlantic, one of the remotely operated vehicles he was working with collected several coral branches with something strange attached to them. It looked like a bunch of sandy-colored golf balls at first, but then he realized it was an egg sac.

He and his fellow researchers eventually classified the hatchling that emerged as a member of the genus Grimpoteuthis. In other words, it was a Dumbo octopus, though they couldn't determine the exact species. But you wouldn't need a biology degree to spot its resemblance to Disney's famous elephant, as you can see in the video below.

The octopus hatched with a set of functional fins that allowed it to swim around and hunt right away, and an MRI scan revealed fully-developed internal organs and a complex nervous system. As the researchers wrote in their study, Dumbo octopuses enter the world as "competent juveniles" ready to jump straight into adult life.

Grimpoteuthis spends its life in the deep ocean, which makes it difficult to study. Scientists hope the newly-reported findings will make it easier to identify Grimpoteuthis eggs and hatchlings for future research.

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