Architectural Atrocities of the Princeton Campus

The Princeton University campus is not completely devoid of pleasing buildings, particularly if one considers the structures built prior to 1940. However, the "modern" structures on campus are at best knock-offs of innovative buildings of the past, and most of the rest are boring or downright ugly. One must wonder whether the indisputably distinguished architects employed by the university treat the campus as a dumping ground for designs rejected by more discriminating clients, or whether university's meddling in the design process (for which there is ample evidence) is responsible for the unfortunate results.

The three very recent buildings shown below (L to R: Bloomberg Hall, Scully Hall, and Icahn Lab) illustrate the grand banality typical of the modern campus construction. One might as well have transported Newark Airport Terminals A, B, and C to the campus and refaced them in brick and corrugated concrete.

However, this section will focus chiefly on the repetitive, misapplied, or offensive architectural details that abound on the campus. During my first years at Princeton (I arrived in 1982), it occurred to me that the architectural uniformity of many other schools (often derided) is perhaps not such a bad thing. While the discordant architecture of the Princeton campus did provide some amusement, as new buildings were constructed, I began to notice that certain pretentious architectural motifs appeared again and again. Some of these are discussed in the links below, and perhaps, once identified, these distractions can at least be eliminated from future buildings.

Asymmetric Porticos

Uncomfortable Apses

Wallace Social Sciences Building

Drooling Bronze

Ecclesiastical Piracy?