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Letter from an alumnus about "Berlin-Wall" Architecture

Date Posted: 05/22/05

I have just returned from my 50th reunion. As always, the lovely old buildings cast their spell. But not the new buildings, Scully and No-name dorm facing Poe Field, which are horrendous. Sadly, they risk squandering one of Princeton's special assets -- its beauty, which has heretofore matched its professors and its students.

Grossly out of scale, the Poe buildings create a Berlin Wall, their massive, unarticulated style more appropriate to a prison or factory than a college dorm. The long, sterile hallways project a hotel or office building atmosphere. Their ultimate sin is obscuring the lovely academic landscape behind.

If not by their beauty, the Poe buildings are presumably justified by considerations of student numbers. But beauty would not need to be sacrificed on the altar of expansion if admission creep were resisted. The University need not ape the Harvard and Stanford model, because "the littlest university and biggest college" has done just fine.

It can be argued that academic institutions of the Princeton type have a duty to build for the ages. Instead, these new buildings seem to be governed by the airline terminal consideration that they are obsolete before they are finished. In fact, that would be a persuasive recourse in this case.

If he could return to the campus and stroll past the new buildings, would Adlai Stevenson '22 repeat his memorable encomium to "this lovely place"? I doubt it.

Lon Farrar '54

Washington, D.C.


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