November 21, 2007: Features
Welcome to Whitman College
Photographs by Ricardo Barros
The formal gateway to Whitman College, Princeton’s new residential college, lies immediately across from the Dinky station. Students can disembark from the train, cross a bridge over a small, dry moat, and pass through the arch at Hargadon Hall. Just before stepping through the arch, they need only look down to recall the day that their Princeton experience began — and the sense of potential that came with it. “Yes!” the stone shouts, just as former admission dean Fred Hargadon alerted fortunate applicants of their success.
The entry was meant to recall the gateway to campus of the early 20th century, when the train deposited students and visitors at Blair Hall, explains architect Demetri Porphyrios *80. In his design of the college, Porphyrios kept one eye on history and the other on the “humanist” experience of today’s Princeton. The Whitman campus unfolds on different levels, with each structure taking an individual identity while contributing to “a community of buildings, like a family,” he says. Moldings may look the same from a distance, but look more closely, and you see that they are different — “like people’s faces.”
Since September, about 500 students have called Whitman College home, living in some of the most-desired suites on campus. Students stream into Whitman’s innovative dining hall and meet for seminars in rooms that mix the convenience of the new with the old-style warmth of fireplaces and oak paneling. Porphyrios says he designed the spaces, indoors and out, to encourage conversation and casual encounters.
The eastern side of the college takes in Mazo Green, an expansive lawn that links Whitman to the larger University. It’s a majestic view — and a symbolic one, says its architect. “It’s a very important vista,” Porphyrios explains. “With open arms, it says: I am Whitman. Please come in. The gates are open.”