From the gray limestone of the CFA to the brown concrete of Exley, Wesleyan is renowned for its beautiful architecture. The brilliant functionality of these buildings, however, is much less visible. As a thank you to the architects responsible for the living spaces at the University, here are some highlights of their advancements in dorm living.
The angular rooms of low rise apartments force you to be careful with how you use space. Moving in the rooms will train your senses to avoid banging your shin against the desk two feet away from the bed. This tight squeeze lets you consider whether your time would better be spent in more social spaces. These parameters are a testament to efficiency, cutting down on extraneous space and giving you only the room you need. And if you have claustrophobia, low rise bedrooms allow you to face your fears directly!
Because of the bedrooms’ small size, the only place for the bed to fit is right next to the window. The only way to open the window is to first move the bed, open the window by awkwardly stretching over the bed, then sliding the bed back to its original position. This procedure forces you to carefully consider whether you really need the window open. This promotes energy conservation. And just in case you do manage to open the window, the architects made sure that you can only open it a couple inches, preventing you from wasting too much energy and keeping your room nice and toasty on those summer nights.
In my low rise apartment, the door to the bathroom hits the sink, preventing it from fully opening. This maximizes efficiency by giving you just enough space to squeeze through the threshold. Who needs to waste time by swinging the door wider than you need to walk through it? The efficiency of the low rise bathroom is advanced by the small space in the lavatory. When I, an average sized human, sit on the toilet, my knees touch the wall in front of it. Any more space than that would be excessive. Plus, how would I know if there was a fire on the other side of the wall without touching it?
The Butts’ tight hallways show off both the ingenious efficiency and the safety of the buildings. Even the smallest of students can touch both sides the halls in the Butts. Not only does this conserve space, it ensures that you can prop yourself up against the wall in case you start to fall. Additionally, it is impossible to sprint through the halls without hitting a wall or stubbing a toe against the seemingly purposeless door frame bisecting each hall in the Butts. The very layout of these dorms forces students to move respectfully through them.
There’s a common rumor among the Wesleyan community that the Butts hallways are “riot-proof.” Regardless of the truth behind this statement, the halls certainly are too narrow for a riot to be lead through their depths. While this suppresses dissent, it also protects your safety. Should you walk out of your room while a student uprising emerged in your dorm, the tight hallways will save you when you may have otherwise been trampled. The ingenuity of the Butts doesn’t stop at the hallways, either.
The Butterfields’ automatically-locking doors show off the built-in safety of the dorms. They go a step further with spring action doors. That way, the door automatically swings shut if you accidentally leave it open. These safety doors are also communal; your whole hall knows you’ve returned by the deafening slam the heavy door makes against the door frame. The Butts bathrooms do not lock, which a recent article by Ben Sullivan bemoaned. But this too is brilliant. Is there a better way to facilitate a close-knit community than accidentally walking in on your naked hallmate?
One day after showering in the Butts (someone had walked in and used the bathroom while I was washing), I rushed back to my room only to find that my safety door had done its job and locked itself. All I could think as I waited, half-naked, for public safety to arrive and unlock my door was how fortunate I was. If my door had not closed itself and locked, I could have been robbed!
Wesleyan’s buildings facilitate efficiency, safety, but most importantly, community. One story illustrates this best. Near the end of my sophomore year, I discovered a hidden feature of Hewitt’s design. The cinder blocks between each room carry sound with remarkable proficiency. One night after writing a paper late into the night, I returned to my dorm and rolled down the blinds. Hearing my return, my hallmate in the next room called out to me, “Connor, get out of my life!” I realized then that he could hear everything in my room all year. There are certain dark secrets that I will only reveal in the safety of my private space, and my sophomore year hallmate knows all of them. And that’s just beautiful.
Connor Aberle is a member of the class of 2019. Connor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org