Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Land Grant Trad: The NC State University Campus

NC State is misunderstood. The largest university in North Carolina with 33,000 students and over one hundred Bachelors degrees, it is abundantly productive and surprisingly exclusive. It's just that, for many years, it has been the third wheel among The Old North State's marquee institutions. Why is that?

The school's like that guy fresh off of the farm or maybe the oldest son of the factory foreman. Kind of low key. Doesn't have a lot of swagger. But everyone respects his common sense. He seems at ease with big wigs but is most home when talking gardening or tinkering in his shop. Knows what FFA stands for and wears the t-shirt to engineering class. Seemingly always marries his high school sweetheart (who usually ended up at State too).

The NC State Campus is the same way. Chapel Hill and Duke have been renowned for their beautiful campuses for many years; especially the Gothic Revival tour-de-force that is the Duke University East Campus.

The North Carolina State University campus has even been called ugly by people that are paid to judge such things. -I guess they're paid. Granted, if you judge the campus by what you see when driving down Hillsborough Street (the commercial drag), you'd guess that students had gone to get PBR kegs in 1977 and, after having been carded and turned down, rioted NE DC style and the store fronts have sat largely unchanged since. I think that the real truth is that 'Old Rawlah' owners have been sitting on derelict properties, awaiting gentrification. They won't be waiting long.
Anyway, if you get off of the main drag and take a look at the campus, you'll see beauty aplenty. There is great neoclassical architecture like you'd expect to see at UNC Chapel Hill or UVA but what's perhaps more endearing is the great Mid-Century Modern architecture that seems to look less back to Ancient Greece than forward to the boundless wonders of science.

Neoclassical, even Georgian, buildings are interspersed among 1930's WPA and 1950s Atomic Age buildings. Really an enjoyable mix!

I suppose the guy in charge of chiseling building names thought that the Latin-style 'V' made visitors forget that this was the building where people studied pigs and cows.

I can see how, when walking into class in the morning, a young student might look upward and see this great WPA frieze and begin calculating with his slide rule!

I would say that a third major style of architecture (and not at all unattractive) is 'Early Tobacco Warehouse'. Some of the major buildings on campus remind me of the tobacco-driven, brick architecture found in Durham. Looks really handsome to me!

I've really come to enjoy peddling around the campus and adjacent Pullen Park. Pullen Park is home to some really nice courts and I've been hitting quite well on them lately.

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