Alas, dear reader, our time together has come to an end. This is my Last and Final Humanities Core Course Blog of All Time™.
On one hand, thank God, I’m so over these. On the other hand, I’ll kind of miss this guy. I like blogging, honestly; I have like 6 sites on Tumblr wilting away from extended dormancy that I doubt will ever see the light of day again and another 3 WordPress ones from eighth grade. So, yeah, I like blogging. I’ll miss this, even if it was a forced assignment that I kind of hate, because it’s a break from stacks on stacks on stacks of academic, formal-register, stressful essays. It’s bittersweet. Insert all the contradictions.
So for our last time together, let’s do something I’ve never tried. Architecture.
This is Humanities Gateway, easily one of my favorite places on campus. Now, that could be biased, as the third floor is my major department. But I find it kind of gorgeous.
Well. Okay. Half of it.
See, the thing is, Humanities Gateway is weirdly split into two completely different aesthetics, and I really am only a fan of one of them.
The side facing Aldrich Park is 50 shades of beige and too regimented for my tastes. I actually hate it. It’s the definition of mediocre. If you asked one hundred people what they would envision the School of Humanities to look like, this would be it. This is what you would get if you asked a historian to design a building and they used a yellowed, tea-stained stack of encyclopedias as inspiration, but then they got distracted once they opened the books and just drew something vaguely resembling a building. Evenly rectangular, blue-tinted windows sit like a row of prison cells in 4 perfect lines, 4 perfect floors. It’s very geometric, not in the cool triangular way people usually mean the word, but in the sense that it’s essentially the shape of the base of a glorified pentagon. Faux brick-looking panels demarcate the first floor from the others, and there is some attempt at making the left side interesting by staggering the depth at the fourth floor. Did I mention the beige? It’s so old and boring and ugly.
Now, the side facing the parking lot is a whole different story. I love this side. Whereas the other side is classic, boring architecture, this is a modernist work of art. It’s all big, blue glass windows in irregular intervals and smooth, exposed gray concrete and flowing, wave-like organic shapes. Very futuristic-chic, but also, strangely, still welcoming, with concrete benches (featuring adorable little bronze anteater forms imposed onto them) providing perfect seating and a small cluster of picnic tables inviting you to bask in the sunlight with a good book and some iced tea. The light reflects magically; when the sun sets and its rays hit the windows just so, it’s like you’re looking at Mount Olympus, but circa the year 3000, if that makes sense.
Apparently, the building was designed in this Fight Club-esque, dual personality craziness for a reason: its “split persona was inspired by Janus [the] two-faced god of mythological literature with the gift of vision into both past and future.” The “past” is the first side, which paid homage to Pereira’s original design seen in the other four buildings in Humanities Quad. From Ring Road, Humanities Gateway looks like it blends perfectly with the aesthetic Pereira established years ago. However, the other side represents the “future” of “unforeseen possibilities,” according to Rebekah Gladstone, the Campus Architect. The commissioned designers, the Fentress Architects, are dedicated to “logic, beauty, and humanism,” and described the two sides of the building as “[expressing] two sensibilities: one side looks to the more formal historical context of the campus, and the other to a more spontaneous response rooted in innovative expression.” It is the first LEED Platinum certified building on this campus, and the exposed windows supposedly allow for 90% of the office space to have an outside view.
I don’t really care about the logistics, honestly.
What I find fascinating about this building is that it seems to represent the changing field of humanities just as much as it pays homage to old architecture. The “classic” humanities fields are all located in Murray-Krieger Hall or HIB: here, you’ll find the departments of English, Classics, History, Philosophy, the various languages. All valuable, and all very, very old majors that most people think of when you say “humanities.” But in Humanities Gateway, that isn’t the case. Here, you’ll find the “new” Humanities fields: African American Studies, Asian American Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Film and Media Studies. The “new” departments that represent a paradigm shift in the academic field, in the American consciousness as a whole; put simply, it’s the future. This is not to imply that the old is outdated and needs to changed. The classic fields are so important, and hey, I’m in one of them. They are incredibly valuable realms. But they are classic when these “new” departments aren’t. These, instead, represent evolution in the field of humanities. Humanities Gateway looks just as modern as its subject matter, and I appreciate that.
Take some time to just sit at those picnic tables and really look at it. Usually, around 1-3PM, the wind is light enough to be a calm breeze and the sun hits the picnic area perfectly. Read a book, do some studying/grading. Heck, take a nap: I’ve done this many times; no one cares and I haven’t been robbed yet. It really is a gorgeous building, even if I hate one side of it.
And with that, I bid thee adieu.