It is 1:30 p.m. on a sunny day. But right now, my dorm room at 1300 Cecil B. Moore Ave. is almost as dark as dusk. Why is this? I get up and look out my window and the view reminds remind me that there is a brick protrusion six feet from my window, which blocks sunlight from reaching my room. Without the help of lights, my room is this dark all day long.
Why did they build a brick protrusion six feet from my window? Who designed this building? My mind is filled with these and other questions. For example, why do most of Annenberg Hall’s classrooms lack windows? Why is Ritter Annex built like a split-level house, making it almost impossible to navigate? Why are so many of Temple’s buildings so ugly?
My only conclusion is that many of the buildings on campus were designed carelessly. Buildings should be nurturing and practical. Unfortunately, architecture follows trends, and many of Temple’s buildings were constructed during the 60s and 70s, when designing ugly, impractical and inhuman buildings was popular.
Architects put a lot of thought into their buildings, but sometimes what looks good on paper doesn’t function in the real world. Speaking with Professor John Pron of the Architecture department enlightened me to the logic behind some recent architectural trends. I noticed that many new buildings have confusing hallway systems. One reason for this is that architects want to create a sense of community within a building. The logic is that if you get lost, you will have to ask your way around, requiring you to meet the people who live or work near you.
But what if I can’t find the people who live or work near me? And what if the confusing hallways are housed in the large brick walls that block my sunlight?
While design trends can be blamed for some of Temple’s ugly architecture, another cause is that Temple is a state school. Whenever the state pays for the greater part of any building erected at Temple, the result is the state getting to choose who designs the building. The most Temple can do is try to attract the best architect for the job. If a good architect bids for the job, and the state chooses that architect, we presumably get a nice building. If not, then we get the work of lesser minds. If money is tight in Harrisburg, there is little Temple can do but accept whichever building it gets.
Temple is expanding fast, making the issue of architecture even more important. The Tyler School of Art is moving to main campus and the Fox School of Business is expanding. Tyler will require a new building and Fox will either need a new one or some sort of addition to the old.
Bridget Knowles, Associate Dean of Tyler Main Campus Programs told me that the process toward building the new Tyler building is going very well. Construction in the 1200 block between Diamond and Norris streets is expected to be completed by the fall of 2006.
Let’s just hope that the best decisions will be made in the planning process. A building is rather permanent, and it would be quite hard to erase such a big mistake once it is in place.
Dan Kristie can be reached at Danielk@temple.edu.