Grove of Academe, Air Strip One, or Inferno?

Bosch Third Panel (B)

Garden of Earthly Delights (Completed 1505) by Hieronymus Bosch (1450 – 1516): Right Panel: Hell

To document pictorially my increasing suspicion about the real nature of the contemporary college campus, I took my digital pocket camera to work with me today and in my spare time between classes snapped a little portfolio of vistas, which I offer below.

Ballsy-Ford Poster

A prominently displayed poster in one of the main walkways of the Campus Center, a characterless agglomeration of 1950s era buildings into a new postmodern structure that is even more characterless than what it replaced.  As Dante put it: Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

Ikarie Xb-1 Stark Corridor

Scene from the Czech sci-fi flick Ikarie XB-1 (1964) about people making a fifty-year voyage from one star system to another aboard a large vessel of sterile appearing interiors.

Campus Center Corridor 02

An actual classroom corridor in the sterile Campus Center.

Aniara 01

A scene from the original Stockholm production of Karl-Birger Blomdahl’s opera Aniara based on Harry Martinson’s epic poem of the same name.  A passenger carrying spaceship goes off course and the passengers must live out their lives in the sterile environment of the vessel.  The passengers are seen here in a conclave around an abstract idol, which they have come to worship.

Sculpture Garden 01

The centerpiece of Lake-Shore-College’s Sculpture Garden

Sculpture Garden 04

Another constituent item of the Sculpture Garden

Lanigan & Penfield Corridor

Homage to East Berlin

Library Frontal View.png

The exalted depository of knowledge

Shineman Exterior

The Sciences Building: It features “half-floors” and is basically an un-navigable labyrinth.

Sculpture Garden 03.png

Another constituent item of the Sculpture Garden: It would not be out of place in the right panel of Bosch’s triptych.

22 thoughts on “Grove of Academe, Air Strip One, or Inferno?

  1. Google ‘St Bride’s Church, East Kilbride’ and see the depths to which ecclesiastical architecture in Scotland has aspired…

    • Professor Emeritus Sir Roland Winston Chadwick Milton Edwards Bernstein III, BSc, MSc, MPhil, PhD - Center For Research in Anthropological Sciences, and Human Intercultural Topics (CRAPSHiT) |


    • The architecture and interior decor (if “decor” were the word) of my campus are colorlessly bland, aesthetically insipid, and not merely un-spiritual but, in their triteness, aggressively anti-spiritual. I omitted to document the telescreens that the administration has placed in every common area around the campus, which constantly stream advertisements for the ceaseless wave of leftwing speakers who visit campus to tell the same story of victimization over and over, while being paid hefty speaker fees. Out of politeness, I also omitted to photograph students, all of whom look the same, men and women alike. They universally weigh themselves down with enormous backpacks that will no doubt inflict damage on their spines, but as they walk they lean forward, hunched over, in order perpetually to consult their cell phones. They look like the tortured sinners and dehumanized servants of Hell in Bosch’s picture.

  2. Photographing high modernist architecture is a damning critique, since it reminds us that no one has ever wished to hang a picture of this rubbish on their wall. New Yorkers should call this Nelson Rockefeller architecture, or perhaps Nelrocks, since its all part of the government vandalism that began with his horrible plaza in Albany. Most of the SUNY schools have a couple of attractive buildings in the old academic gothic style, but they are surrounded by grim Nelrocks. This campus is much the same. Every building put up since 1960 makes one wish that trees grew faster (and in this part of the world, higher). Up there I suppose you wish they kept their leaves year round.

    I have a special loathing for modernist public art, which is aesthetically unpleasing, but which also reminds us that we have no common culture that we dare to celebrate. A culture that decorates its public space with rhombohedra is dead. It has no heroes, no achievements, no reverence.

    • Death haunts the post-1945 university, proliferating as it did in what you rightly call the Nelson Rockefeller school of functional — and decade by decade increasingly non-functional — architecture. Blandness and triteness are deadly to the spirit, deadly to the intellect. That is the intention. There is a demonic correspondence between the physical plant of the specimen postmodern university and its curriculum. One tends to think of the Devil as a flashy dresser, but maybe he is more a presence that, like a vampire to blood, drains away everything of color and interest from the environment until, deprived of any real stimulation, his victims fall into a brain-dead stupor.

      The image of Satan in Bosch’s picture, eating his victims alive and excreting them, is a metaphor of modern mendaciously self-denominating higher education — with the exception that being excreted by the Devil doesn’t saddle one with a lifetime of un-repayable debt.

    • “Every building put up since 1960 makes one wish that trees grew faster”
      The founder of the firm I’m currently employed at was fond of saying “trees are very important to hide bad architecture.” Unfotunately, Landscape elements are cheaper than doing quality architecture nowadays.
      Also, back in my grad school days, upon realizing your renderings lacked character, the joke was always “just put a tree on it”. Duped many critics.

      • On the campus to which I refer there are few trees if any. (See my photographs.) The ugly buildings are a naked and sterile presence. I emphasize that the ugliness of the buildings themselves as seen from the exterior and the insipidity of their internal decor correlate with the ugliness and insipidity of the curriculum and with the crassness of the administration’s greed for money.

      • Modern architecture is all about making a statement. What statement?

        ‘I was here. I have changed your environment for good or (mostly) bad.
        You cannot ignore the effect I have had on your society. I am important.
        Of course, you who have to live with my creations are not important.’

        It is the adult version of ‘Kilroy was here’, of carving initials on a tree.
        Perhaps modern architects should be drowned at birth.

      • Back in the 1960s, architects called this style Neo-Brutalism. The Italians called it Brutalismo. Apologists for these monstrosities said that Brute meant “naked,” or even “honest.” They were right in a way. But the most common translation for “brut” in all of the romance languages is “crude” or “ugly.” If an American knows this word as an adjective, it is probably as the name of unsweetened “brut champagne.” It is, of course, a deep irony that the style of a building (which is, in the last analysis, the outer layer of ones apparel) should be called “naked.” But the name is, as I said, right in a way. If we combine the various meanings of “brut,” we get something like “butt ugly.” So, when talking about such buildings in future, I suggest we say “This is a building in the Brutalismo, which is to say ‘butt ugly’ style.'”

      • I used to think that also, but the connection to “brute” is indirect. The signature of brutalism is naked concrete. To a brutalist, decoration and veneer is equivalent to the sugar that is added to all non-brut champagnes. The two words are connected, though, because both mean uncivilized.

      • Modern architecture is all about making a statement. What statement?
        ‘I was here. I have changed your environment for good or (mostly) bad.
        You cannot ignore the effect I have had on your society. I am important.
        Of course, you who have to live with my creations are not important.’
        It is the adult version of ‘Kilroy was here’, of carving initials on a tree.

    • Just as the leaders of the Communist nations plastered their images everywhere so too do the administrators of my institution plaster their images around campus, boasting of their crass achievements.

      • Not just the images, but weird and grotesque images that everyone must accept on penalty of wrongthink. Or are we calling that Double-plus ungood now.

  3. You would do well to replace every ‘sculpture’ in your ‘sculpture garden’ with ballistic steel that has undergone weapons penetration testing. This would have several advantages: it would be a truer homage to the products of modernity, it would be a truer measure against which to test the skills of your Arts department, it would hold more interest to the casual observer and postmodernist art critic alike, and it would be much harder to topple or damage once it becomes (as is sadly inevitable for every public sculpture) highly offensive to some microscopic but politically useful interest group.

    • I would replace the dubious “art items” with a Hawker Hunter on a pylon. The Hunter was aesthetically the most pleasing of the second generation jet fighters. And it would be meaningful.

      • I have to disagree, but I have Strong Feelings about Aerodynamic Shapes. Your heart’s in the right place, anyhow.

  4. When I moved from comfy upper middle class suburbia to the real America of proles and very large trucks, I discovered an odd thing.
    People who can’t read want to go to colleges I’ve never heard of… to major in English.
    This strikes me as both pointless and flatly absurd.

    • “Majoring in English” now means learning how to rant about the evil oppressors — or spending four years and 100K to make a three-minute YoutTube video that entitles one to claim a baccalaureate in “Screen Studies.” Who needs to read?


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