Some college campuses are idyllic little slices of heaven that seem soaked in perfect academic majesty. Others, not so much. These campuses are on the ugly side. A few are like flawed slices of hell.
SUNY Purchase feels like a modern interpretation of a medieval fortress, or perhaps a repurposed maximum security prison. Naturally, several of its 1960s-era buildings were designed by famous architects.
2. University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
Boston City Hall, built in 1968, is widely regarded as one of the ugliest buildings in the world. The mayor gasped in horror when plans were initially unveiled. Someone else shrieked, “What the hell is that?” If you like Boston City Hall, though, you can revel in a campus full of the same brutalist spectacles some 50 miles away at UMass Dartmouth. Not to be confused with Dartmouth College, of which President Dwight Eisenhower said in 1953, “This is what a college should look like.”
3. University at Albany – State University of New York
Architecture critics have hailed the main campus at SUNY Albany as a formal masterpiece. If “formal” means a desolate, soulless morass of concrete, then that description is very apt.
4. Hampshire College
Established in 1970, Hampshire College is something of an ode to prison-esque architectural style. It’s as if the designers went out of their way to create loathsome, inhuman edifices.
5. Rochester Institute of Technology
The campus of RIT is a cold, drab, wind-swept sea of identically ugly red brick buildings. Hilariously, like several other schools on this list, the school boasts an architecture program.
6. Drexel University
Everything here is sort of a garish orange, and there is little in the way of grass.
7. Harvey Mudd College
Schools that are famous for engineering and those built after World War II tend to be similarly unattractive. Harvey Mudd is a hardcore engineering school founded in 1955. Even if you aren’t cut out for the rigors of HMC, you can do the math on this one.
8. Rutgers University (New Brunswick)
Rutgers is a huge, spread-out campus, and some niches of it are quite pretty. But haphazard design, an utter lack of coherence and too many unsightly buildings add up to a depressing whole.
9. University of Massachusetts Amherst
The overall campus at UMass Amherst really isn’t so bad, but a couple of East German functionalist-style structures make the whole landscape feel oppressive. And having the much prettier Amherst College down the road from the state school’s flagship campus doesn’t help.
10. Brandeis University
Most of Brandeis University was constructed in the post-World War II era, and it shows. Boring modernist rectangles proliferate.
11. University of Illinois at Chicago
UIC has made some strides toward what almost passes for attractiveness in recent years, but at its core, it remains a cluster of bleak, dispiriting concrete monstrosities flanked on two sides by multi-lane highways.
12. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The buildings at MIT are eclectic enough, but too many of them are either straight out of the 1970s or ghastly in some other way.
13. University of California San Diego
The surrounding area is beautiful and all, and the UCSD campus has some nice features, but there’s just too much concrete. The repugnant main library looks like a cross between a spaceship and an especially drab head of broccoli.
14. Boston University
Few universities located in big cities are much to write home about, but there is arguably nothing about Boston University that is aesthetically pleasing. Not for nothing does BU also stand for “big and ugly.”
15. Ithaca College
“Ithaca is gorges,” the slogan goes, but Ithaca College is not. While the landscaping is respectable enough, the buildings are set far apart. and too many of them are eyesores.
16. University of Texas at Dallas
UT-Dallas is trying hard to modernize, but it’s still mostly a sad collection of atrocious 1970s-era buildings.
17. Illinois Institute of Technology
Over the course of a few decades, famed minimalist architect Mies van der Rohe was able to make his vision of what a modern college campus should look like a reality. Sadly, students at IIT must now live with that reality.
18. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
This epic mound of poured cement in downtown Indianapolis is a campus that only the architect’s mother could love.