It’s back-to-school time, America. College students are settling back into campuses that are idyllic little slices of academic heaven that look like postcards.
Other students aren’t so lucky. They will be headed to flawed slices of hell.
The college campuses below are the ugliest in the United States for 2015.
Enjoy! Or, you know, “enjoy.”
What the hell is the NJIT campus, and what does it want? This slapdash, disorganized place is a further blot on the lackluster landscape of Newark (even if you didn’t even thing such a thing was possible). One building looks vaguely like a cosmetics factory festooned with red umbrellas. Another looks like a rainbow of Lincoln Logs. Still another isn’t bad, but it was a former asylum for orphans. And so it goes, with zero cohesion.
Both schools famous for engineering and schools built after World War II tend to be unattractive. Harvey Mudd is a hardcore engineering school founded in 1955. There is simply no excuse for a school this wealthy and located in beautiful Southern California to look like an office complex in the depths of New Jersey.
Some people like NC State’s campus. Those people also really, really like red bricks — maybe enough to encircle the earth. There’s more than a hint of concrete as well. And, generally, there is no sense of architectural style and only a dull, methodical sense of purpose. Next to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC State looks especially sad.
Boring, characterless modernist rectangles proliferate on this mostly post-World War II era monstrosity of a campus in a boring, characterless suburb of Boston. There’s also a weird-looking castle-like thing. It’s a charmless campus with no point.
Founded in 1963, Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla. looks like what would happen if Mr. Spacely from The Jetsons became incredibly religious and established a college that reflected the Spacely Sprockets aesthetic. Much of the campus has that special futuristic feel — as the future was interpreted in the early 1960s. It was stale by Watergate and by now it’s already a strange sort of relic.
The admissions people at Carnegie Mellon can hoodwink you with some pictures of pretty buildings on this campus. Do not be fooled. Too many CMU buildings are hideous. Some — Wean Hall, for example — are ominous and bordering on inhumanely totalitarian. Their stark contrast with the decent and tasteful buildings casts a strange, tragic pall on this very expensive campus in otherwise perfectly charming Pittsburgh.
Engineering schools are notoriously ugly. It’s almost as if they try to outdo each other. Maybe they do. Michigan Tech in the frozen tundra of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is full of ugly edifices galore. The frozen tundra part doesn’t help.
CUNY Hunter on Manhattan’s Upper East Side is a bleak, cheerless commuter dump designed largely in the architecturally-criminal Brutalist style. Windows are few. The inside of the buildings is either poorly or harshly lit. The whole setup reeks of the worst aspects of the Carter era.
The atmosphere on Drexel’s campus ranges from dreary to very dreary. The buildings tends to be this garish orange color. The specter of concrete is nearly haunting. There is little in the way of grass. And then there’s the surrounding awfulness of Philadelphia.
The main campus at SUNY Albany has been hailed by architecture critics as a formal masterpiece. If “formal” means a desolate, soulless morass of concrete, then that description is very apt.
As a rule, the planners at public universities in New Jersey have obviously made every effort to create campuses with no beauty or architectural cohesion. There are so many examples across the state. It’s like somebody was really mad they didn’t get into Princeton and swore to take it out on generations of taxpayers. Perhaps the textbook example of this phenomenon is the concrete blight that is the Rutgers campus in Newark. Truly, it is a campus worthy of the surrounding city.
The surrounding area is beautiful and all, and the UCSD campus has some nice features, but there’s way too much concrete. The repugnant main library looks like a cross between a spaceship, a swinging-seventies apartment complex and an especially drab head of broccoli with Brutalist stalks. There’s just no excuse for a dump like this to exist a mile from a world-class beach.
The overall campus at UMass Amherst really isn’t so bad. However, a couple nightmarish East German functionalist-style structures loom high over the campus and make the whole landscape feel oppressive.
SUNY Stony Brook — currently called Stony Brook University but, don’t worry, the administration will probably change the name yet again soon — is home to a motley collection of buildings. Some are OK, in a plain sort of way. Some are terrible. The school on New York’s Long Island should be on every list of ugly campuses until it razes the embarrassing blot on the earth that is its hospital. Look at that disgusting eyesore! Who designs this crap?
America’s crown jewel of Brutalist inhumanity is UIC, which at its core remains a cluster of bleak, dispiriting concrete monstrosities flanked on two sides by multi-lane highways. The architects at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill who designed this subhuman, sterile hunk of cement — on the taxpayer dime — have to be having a good laugh about it even now as they sit in their aesthetically pleasing office space.
The campus of RIT is a cold, drab, windswept sea of identically ugly, identically repressive brick buildings in a city where the weather is awful most of the school year. You probably think TheDC chose some especially sad image. Not true! The whole campus is this appalling. It’s central to the whole theme. Hilariously, of course, RIT boasts an architecture program.
Established in 1970, Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. is something of an ode to the briefly popular prison-esque architectural style that swept college campuses like some gruesome wildfire right when the school was founded. It’s as if the designers went out of their way to create loathsome, inhuman edifices. The cruelest part, though, is that students pay $60,570 per year to be undergrads in such revolting surroundings.
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.
In 1968, when Boston’s hideous City Hall was unveiled, someone reportedly shrieked, “What the hell is that?” If you like such grotesque dumps, though, you can revel in a campus full of Brutalist spectacles some 50 miles away at UMass Dartmouth. Just remember that there is a whole world out there, and it looks nothing like this amazingly awful, taxpayer-funded campus.
(Photos: YouTube screenshot/New Jersey Institute of Technology, public domain/TythosEternal, Creative Commons/Cgb628, YouTube screenshot/Wanda Kaluza, YouTube screenshot/Oral Roberts University, Creative Commons/Tomwsulcer, Creative Commons/Robert Emperley, Creative Commons/Beyond My Ken, public domain/Daderot, Creative Commons/Beyond My Ken, Creative Commons/Office of Communications, Rutgers University in Newark, Creative Commons/FASTILY, public domain/Lion Hirth, Creative Commons/Mark Kim, Creative Commons/Hied5, Creative Commons/Tomwsulcer, public domainWondermut2k6, public domain/Nashvilleneighbor, public domain/Paininthebass)