Campus architecture: From Greek to glass
At Syracuse University, students – like it or not – rely on stereotypes to define their reality to some extent, even when it comes to college architecture. Since Ivy League schools reign terror on school rankings, their old, red-brick architecture subsequently sets the stereotype standard for building style as well. However, SU went for a different look with Newhouse III and the Martin J. Whitman School of Management: glass.
Architect Tomas J. Rossant designed Newhouse III with a specific idea involving glass. Rossant called glass buildings ‘chameleons’ in a phone interview. It’s an abstract idea, and should be understood like this: A glass building with its reflectivity can mimic any surrounding or diverse community. Rossant said this was a democratic idea.
But does it matter if all that students see in Newhouse III is a building that simply looks modern and sexy? No, because a glass building couldn’t be more appropriate for SU.
‘Glass is a facilitator of society,’ Rossant said. ‘Ideas can be exchanged with transparency. Newhouse III is one of the most prominent doors of SU. It’s bold and progressive.’
Rossant argues that having SU look like another Ivy League school with red bricks and stone columns wouldn’t be genuine since it represents an age before important civil liberties.
‘When you try to fake the past, there’s a weird sense about it,’ Rossant said. ‘What do old-looking buildings made in the 1920s say to women and black people?’
There’s no getting around the fact that modern architecture – with or without glass – represents this era better than buildings that look like the Roman Forum or the Pantheon. As far as history goes, glass architecture certainly keeps up with a world that relates to college students. As the SU campus evolves, so will the reflections on the glass of Newhouse III and Whitman.
Junior graphics design major Christopher Woodside initially thought that glass was a generic symbol for modern architecture.
‘Well, as I understand it, glass is normally used in modern architecture, so glass tends to give a building a certain modern feel,’ Woodside said.
Woodside didn’t realize Rossant’s dream when he first saw Newhouse III. After hearing Rossant’s explanation, Woodside now respects what the architect was going for.
‘I would admit that it does kind of mimic the mood of its surroundings, i.e., on a sunny day it looks more clean and bright than it would on a cloudy or rainy day,’ Woodside said.
College campuses should model SU and seriously consider glass architecture because it can make a building truly belong anywhere.
Jett Wells is a biweekly columnist for The Daily Orange. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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