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Build a better Castle

Build a better Castle

By José Castellanos

Section: Opinions

March 11, 2016

On Jan. 25, Interim President Lisa M. Lynch announced the inevitable: Due to the fact that Usen Castle was not built to optimal standards when it was constructed during the Great Depression, Towers C, D and E, as well as Schwartz hall, will be torn down to accommodate a new residence hall, projected to be completed by August 2018. This article is not a defense of Usen Castle. It is undoubtedly a massive safety hazard, containing chipped, possibly lead-based paint, faulty plumbing and exposed insulation in certain rooms. Rather, this is a call to build a bigger, better castle from the ashes of Usen Castle.

After Lynch’s announcement, an online petition aptly named “Build a Bigger Damn Castle” was launched, asking “the university to maintain the Castle quad’s whimsical, medieval character in any new construction, consistent with its 1979 placement on the National Register of Historic Places.” Impressively, the petition had 732 supporters at the time of writing, showing that the Brandeis student body is largely supportive of such an action.

To tear down such a large portion of the Castle without providing an aesthetically similar replacement would be criminal. It would rob the campus of what is undoubtedly one of its most iconic buildings, and therefore remove the whimsical charm that it provides to our campus. Additionally, it would prevent future students from having the unique experience of having a literal castle as their residence hall, as the future of Towers A and B is uncertain, given that “these sections will be unoccupied while the university further analyzes options and possible fundraising opportunities for their future,” according to Lynch.

So what is the alternative? The alternative would more than likely be a building aesthetically similar to Ridgewood and the Village, the most recently constructed residence halls on campus. However, for a school like Brandeis, this is not a viable alternative. Brandeis prides itself on being unique, with many students able to embrace their quirks and differences, whatever they may be. By removing a residence hall as unique as Usen Castle, Brandeis runs the risk of becoming an increasingly generic campus, something that is largely unappealing to many. “One of the reasons I decided to come to Brandeis was because of the campus,” says Jack Fox ’18. “I fell in love with it, and the Castle definitely helps add to the charm of the campus.”

One of the principle reasons for tearing down such a large portion of the Castle is the fact that it would be much more costly to perform a full restoration than to build a new residence hall entirely. However, the cost of expanding the Castle cannot be much different than the cost of a generic, modern-looking residence hall. The principle difference would be in the exterior facade

  • JM

    It would be sad to lose the Castle without a similar replacement. Brandeis seems to be constitutionally incapable of hiring a decent architect, and as such, is one of the ugliest campuses I’ve ever seen. Can someone just mandate that whatever replacement goes up MUST be done in College Gothic? Or Disney Gothic? Or *something* with more aesthetic appeal to it than Square 1970s Knockoff With Some Glass Or Maybe Just Green Walls?

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