New Jersey Institute of Technology as The Ugliest Campus in the Country

BY lyanne

Erberhart Hall

Say What!!!    Not again.  In October Conde Nash called Newark the most unfriendly city in the world.  Now two days ago Traveler and Leisure publication reported that NJIT is the most ugliest college in the country.  While several months ago the New Jersey Institute of Technology took the top honors as the nations’s college with the best value.  How does it now landed on a not-so favorable list?  Is this another non factual publication survey unscientific bias report, with its own agenda attacking our institution and more widely our city?

According to the study, Administrators describe the New Jersey Institute of Technology as the “crown jewel” of the state’s public university system. However  126,000 students responding to the Princeton Review 2013 survey, awarding it the least beautiful college campus in America. NJIT, founded in 1881, suffers from a mishmash of architectural styles, from the Gothic Eberhardt Hall (formerly an asylum for orphans) to Redwood Residence Hall, which might be described as crematorium-Modernism in downtown Newark.

NJIT greek viallage

NJIT has taken steps to improve its on-campus image with its Gateway plan. In September, NJIT unveiled its $80 million Warren Street Greek and Honors Village project, a three-acre development on the edge of campus that includes a row of sleek brick townhouses to serve as new homes for up to 10 of the school’s fraternities and sororities, honors students a fitness center, and a 600-bed student village as part of the Campus Center development.  The new development also includes restaurants, lounges and computer labs.

NJIT Greek Village2

But still the bigger questions remain, who are the 126,00 student completing this survey?  Have they been to to NJIT?  Were they graduating seniors?  Have they even ever come to Newark?  Further still the reality that being a historic institution, and buildings such as Eberhardt Hall are historic landmark buildings on campus, will naturally result in a mix of architecture styles.  Why shouldn’t a school of architectural reflect and preserve historic architectural styles regardless to style and vogue?

eberhardt hall interior2 eberhardt interior1

Some students from NJIT have voiced their disagreement with this most recent assessment, “I think NJIT has a wonderful campus and they are constantly upgrading their campus. Newark has the largest amount of college students attending school in NJ. NJIT, Rutgers- Newark, Seton Hall Law school, ECC, and Berkeley College are all located in Newark.  As an alum, I take extreme offense to this!!! Have they even visited it???? It is an extremely nice looking urban campus. There is absolutely nothing ugly about it, except, maybe in some labs and in some frat houses. In recent decades they have added a lot of very nice looking buildings as well. This makes no sense whatsoever.”

Two very important fact when looking at campus building, the older the institution the more likely it will have various architectural styles.  This is why the list included most of the traditional heavyweights, as seven of the eight Ivy League schools (sorry, Yale) made the top 50 ugliest campuses.  Secondly since many technical institution emerged out of post–World War II era, a the architectural styles were industrialist  coincided with Modernism, Brutalism, and a general love affair with concrete since it was fast  and flexible building medium.  But the rankings favored tech schools.  Rochester Institute of Technology, and Chicago Institute of Technology.  “We became suburbanized, and the campuses became suburbanized,” says Richard Wilson, professor and chair of the University of Virginia’s department of architectural history. It’s no surprise then that sprawling commuter campuses like the University of Minnesota may bring to mind Dunder Mifflin, the uninspired setting of TV show The Office.

Student center

Yet there’s more to good campus design than a pretty façade. It isn’t worth a Pritzker Prize if the spaces don’t encourage students to put down their iPods and actually connect. “I like to argue that half the learning experience takes place in the hallways,” Wilson says. “Ultimately architecture is like music; you can’t put it all into words.”At least one saving grace, is the article admits that  selections of campuses solely on a beauty competitions of architectural styles, you’re probably doing it wrong.  Sadly higher education is now seen as just another long term vacation. Perks are more important than getting an education that will ACTUALLY make you employable. Looking at the stats for graduating college seniors relative to them finding a job – it appears that all the fancy buildings and recreational facilities are turning out young people with a Junk Bond Diploma that has a great big fat college loan behind it. We can only fill 55% of the slots in Engineering programs in the US with US residents!! Not because they aren’t applying – it’s because they aren’t qualified. So the other 45% are from other countries and I’m sure they aren’t complaining about the buildings.

What are your thoughts, add to the conversation.

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