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ugly RIT campus

This week I wanted to discuss my initial impression of RIT. When I accompanied my partner to RIT for the first time, I was awestruck in all of the wrong ways. “It looks like a big community college,” were the first words out of my mouth, I believe. Every decision a university makes should be intentional and the all-brick square-edged campus of RIT gave me the initial impression of something much smaller and uptight than I discovered to be the case. While contextually I understand that the design is efficient and endures the snow well, I’ve met several previous potential students that opted out of RIT in their decision due only to the feel of the campus.

To clarify, Helmers specifically mentions the reaction that all viewers have an immediate reaction. There is an impression that any visual bestows, just as “the image either compels us to to examine it or look away,” the message relayed by the RIT campus is not a positive one. Kelly mentions the context of the brick choice below, in how the architects took into consideration the brick’s color when wet.

Ultimately, I believe that function defeated form in this case, to the detriment of all RIT students and potential students.

Kurt

Comments

Kelly Martin
Reply

Kurt, this is an interesting post. Could you explain how the reading for this week prompted you to do this as an illustration and what concept you are illustrating? You might think it is obvious but it would be helpful to others in the class as well. You can even use page numbers or direct quotes. Thanks!

Kelly Martin
Reply

Also an interesting fact – the bricks for the buildings were design specifically for RIT and are supposed to be the most colorful when it rains.

Joel
Reply

I agree with you. When I first arrived six years ago, I thought RIT looked like a bigger-than-usual community college. The look and feel of RIT nags at me to this day, especially when I ride my bike through the University of Rochester (such a beautiful campus) to get to RIT. I get that maybe RIT wanted a simplistic feel for a hardcore education, but the look of a college more than impacts its feel.

Kurt
Reply

Oh, my god, the pixellation.

Sorry about that Kelly, I’ll edit the post now!

That’s interesting, but I would have preferred multiple colors of bricks or something. It comes across so bland to me.

Joel, I couldn’t agree more. It’s depressing.

Bryan
Reply

RIT is incredibly difficult to navigate for about the first three months you’re here – you just know one or two buildings – mostly because everything looks exactly the same. We’ve reached a point where the new installations are looking fresher than the original 1960s construction, though.

When you speak of immediate reactions, this is actually a nice photo, it has some nice balance between the blue sky and the green grass – in fact, the emphasis of the pic (Eastman) is probably the most obnoxious thing here. It looks more like a nondescript factory or office building than a school. Is the fact that a simple pic of RIT need so much context detrimental to its presentation? I believe Kurt would say…yes.

Kurt
Reply

Bryan,

Yes, I’ve found that to be very true. The similarity of the buildings does make it very difficult to navigate.

Glad you enjoyed the photo. I don’t know that I agree with the concept of “detrimental,” other than to say that I do not believe the message the campus sends is one its administrators intend to send.

Erin
Reply

I actually really like the RIT campus; I think I’m the only one! I like, especially how in this picture, the buildings really contrast the blue sky. This is probably not a typical campus view, per say, because as they say, it’s always cloudy in Rochester. I didn’t grow up in a city or around bricks, so I think the bricks were a welcome change for me. I hope that the RIT campus has grown on you, Kurt!

Kelly
Reply

You most definitely are not the only one! I love this campus as well, and find “walking among the bricks” (as my roommate says) an enjoyable and relaxing experience. RIT is far from the “traditional look” of a college campus, but is there anything about RIT that strictly follows the “traditional” route? The look and feel of RIT is another aspect that makes it a truly unique place to study.

Benjamin
Reply

When a majority of this campus was build it was the 1960′s and contemporary architecture was very popular and was seen as cutting edge at the time. Erin you aren’t the only one, I like RIT’s design as well.

Ivonna
Reply

This happened to me while I was trying to decide in which college I was going to study back in Dominican Republic. I didn’t choose the college I studied in because of its campus, but I did discarded one of the universities I had as options, because I hated its structure.

I can’t say I hate RIT buildings, but I also think that it’s very confusing to distinguish one from the other.

Justin
Reply

Although the RIT buildings lean towards the ugly side I’m glad RIT maintains a consistent brick theme throughout most of the buildings. I find campuses with completely different themed buildings to be somewhat of an eyesore. As mentioned above though its does make it difficult to navigate for new people.

Liz
Reply

Kurt,
The similarity of the buildings and general lack of curb appeal in most of the buildings would be a little bit difficult to change since the college was designed in this way, but I think I almost prefer the consistency of the design of the buildings. Sure, they all look the same and things are at first hard to find, but it looks much more pulled together than say, SUNY Brockport, where nearly each building is completely different architecturally and there isn’t any sort of cohesion.

Kurt
Reply

It all comes to personal preference, I suppose. Some people prefer cohesion. I think what is not as debatable, though, is that hard lines, squares and the color brown relay a certain message that isn’t friendly to RIT or its students.

I come from Mississippi State University where every building has a separate architect and a different look, on purpose. I think it’s beautiful. Each architect was forced to think out of the box and find a building that varied from the others but was functional.

Imagine the message that offers as well. To me, it screams “we embrace diversity.”

Nikolas
Reply

Needs more JPEG.

RIT’s campus architecture does not bother me in the slightest. Frankly, it bothers me much more that the administration has spent millions of dollars (unsuccessfully) attempting to ‘soften’ and ‘beautify’ the campus with various art installations and landscaping projects and so on. It doesn’t really hurt my feelings that the Princeton Review says RIT is ugly; they don’t like MIT’s Stata Center either, but I can’t imagine Frank Gehry is losing sleep over it. I don’t need a beautiful campus. I need more parking and better facilities.

Blocky, red brick buildings might strike some people as ‘harsh’ or ‘severe’. They just strike me as functional. I am a programmer by background, so I don’t have much patience with the form over function approach to architecture, or fashion, or anything. Perhaps the design of RIT’s campus is a challenge with respect to recruiting new students — who often have a romanticized and unreasonable image of what a college is supposed to look like — but the buildings keep people warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and dry when it rains.

Lorie Lighty
Reply

Awesome post! I will keep an on eye on your blog.

Kurt
Reply

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