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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Make No Mistake

Rather surprising for Manhattan, isn't it? Most residents or visitors never get to Columbia University - it's in its own world, removed from city due both geographically (located far uptown in Morningside Heights) and its rather unique true campus enclave. Other colleges and schools in the city are typically comprised of a number of buildings acquired over time and located in a helter skelter fashion as close to the main buildings as possible - e.g. SVA, the New School, Cooper Union, Hunter College and to a lesser extent NYU. Columbia has a real campus, relatively isolated from the city streets. Rather befitting its status as one of the eight members of the Ivy league.
Columbia is one of the most prestigious Universities in the world with a long list of firsts and superlatives. Founded in 1754 by the Church of England, this school has 87 Nobel Prize winners affiliated with it. Columbia University is an enormous topic - read more here at their official website.
The colonnaded structure in the photo, the Low Memorial Library, is the centerpiece of the campus and one of the most universally applauded structures in New York City. Designed by McKim, Mead and White with elements of the Parthenon and Pantheon, it is considered one of their finest works. This was the first building in 1897 at the new uptown campus (it had previous downtown locations). When built, in an area that was cropfields, this grand structure, sitting atop a hill, afforded vistas of Manhattan to the south.
Unable to get in on Sunday, I was disappointed not only that I would get no interior photos, but I speculated why a University Library would be closed midday. Answer - this building has not functioned as a library since 1934 - it now is its administrative center. The interior of the 106 foot high granite rotunda is spectacular with solid green Connemara marble columns.
Make no mistake, there are plenty of books at Columbia, and Low Library would not be large enough to house them all (over 9 million volumes). The main library is Butler Library located south across the central campus, with sections opened 24/7. I made the same mistake that apparently many newcoming students do. For years there was a small sign stating "THIS IS NOT BUTLER LIBRARY."
The time to visit is on a warm sunny day. Stroll the campus ane enjoy the plazas, the green space of the campus and imagine the privilege of attending this fine university with everything that it is has to offer ...

3 comments:

Lucy said...

Having gone to art school at SVA, I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to go to a "normal" college...this looks pretty idyllic.

jenchung said...

I liked going to Columbia and appreciated its semblance of a campus. What Columbia can do next is lower tuition for middle class students, the way Harvard and Stanford have. And here's what Butler looks like at night.

Brian said...

jen -
Now that looks like an institution of higher learning.