Sunday, January 12, 2014

Bad postcard of the week: Windowless, riot-proof buildings at University of Michigan and Mizzou

University of Michigan's Space Research Building seems to have more trees that visible students.

I remember walking around the University of Missouri campus during my orientation tour, and we passed a rather ugly building with very small windows.

The tour guide told us that the building was constructed during the turbulent 1960s, and that the building was designed with small windows to withstand campus riots.

I thought this was odd.

There are, of course, many buildings on the University of Missouri campus, and the rest of them had big, or at least, numerous windows.

I envisioned some kind of system where administrators, the best football players, and other campus VIPs would be abruptly pulled from their offices or Harpo’s and whisked to the windowless building at the first hint of trouble.

Imagine the poor guy working the door, debating who should  be allowed inside and who was deemed expendable or least able to survive hordes of enraged students.

I came to suspect that while our orientation guide was skilled at walking backward while talking, she was spinning lies.

Mizzou students struggled to organize a simple task of holding hands across campus for the great Hands Across America crusade.

A riot? Students would require three weeks advance notice to order t-shirts and party favor boxers. Plus, they’d have to work around the schedule of the party pics photographer.

I thought of those experiences – and my party pics – when I came across this week’s bad postcard.

The back reads: “Space Physics Building, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan. This building was provided through a NASA grant to expand University facilities for aerospace research. On June 15, 1965, two University of Michigan graduates, astronauts Lt. Col. James A. McDivitt and Lt. Col. Edward H. White, helped dedicate this building.”

The message is kind of funny. Terry writes to Ricky in Thousand Oaks, Calif., saying, “This is part of my school. It’s so big I’ll have to ride a bus between some classes. (My school is bigger than yours.)”

Those crazy Wolverines. Always boasting. And Ricky must not go to The Ohio State University.

Back to the building. We have another building with very small – practically non-existent – windows.

Let’s dismiss the whole riot thing. I've been to Ann Arbor. If students didn't riot when Crazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger was shut down last year, they’re not going to riot for anything.

So let’s consider the function of windows.

Perhaps the architects didn't want passersby to see what kind of secret science stuff was going on inside.  

Perhaps they didn't want people to see U of M students?  That can’t be, because I know some and they are very nice.

Perhaps they wanted to cut down on operating expenses. Window-washing is expensive.

Perhaps they’re using the casino model and thought that if students couldn't see the outside world they’d lose track of time and keep working.

We just don’t know.

1 comment:

wmrharris said...

Blame your tour guide. Probably a Spartan out moonlighting, hoping to mislead prospective students.

At the time, this building was way off in the boonies. North Campus was a few sorry buildings plus a nuclear reactor (HS field trip, btw). All the good stuff was still downtown. Your daughter has good sense to go and visit....