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East Quad: an attempt at an explanation

From now this point forward, consider yourself an intrepid explorer, braving the architectural unknowns of East Quad. The descent into the quad is a steep one, but fear not, your Brandeis calves, strengthened from continuous climbs up the Rabb steps, will aid you in your quest. “Imposing”–that is the first thought that arises at the sight of the tall red brick walls, seemingly closing in on you–walls to your front and a steep hill at your back. Welcome to East Quad.

Built in 1964 and designed by Benjamin Thompson through The Architects Collaborative, East Quad is an integral part of Brandeis, especially as the majority of its sophomores will wind their way up the triangular staircases to their dorms each year. The layout and structure of the building is baffling. If you look at the building plans, the building snakes around on its foundation, opposed to the very idea of sticking to just one angle. 

The peculiar design of the Quad easily lends itself to a vast array of creation myths–hearsay folklore about how and why East Quad was designed. Personally, I have heard numerous explanations for why the hallways are so incredibly narrow, that the building was designed by someone who also designed prisons, and the tale of how a turkey once flew into a window in the quad (okay, the turkey story is true). As far as I can tell, through researching architect Benjamin Thompson online, he was not associated with any prison building projects. A story, true or not, can still integrate itself into the general lore of the building. East Quad will never be able to escape this. 

East Quad semi-encircles the Brandeis Intercultural Center (ICC), housed inside the Swig Student Center, which once functioned as a dining hall for East Quad back in the 1960s . This was at a time when Kutz hall also functioned as a Brandeis dining hall. It appears that Brandeis buildings tend to be repurposed over time. Perhaps, in ten years, students will attend their recitation sections in Hassenfeld 110 (I shudder to think about the logistics of designing a lecture hall in East Quad). 

Additionally, according to a blog post of architecture on campus, the Modernist design of East Quad mimics the appearance of a castle, from the long and narrow windows to the bridge running between the Quad and the ICC to the crenulations at the top of the building to the Hassenfeld 1 and Pomerantz 2 floors looking like the darkened hallways of a dungeon. 

For anyone disappointed at no longer being able to live in the Brandeis castle, perhaps consider booking a stay at East Quad. Aside from the indoor plumbing and electricity, East Quad will bring you right back to medieval times. The descent to the basement to do your laundry will make you feel like a medieval chambermaid. And you cannot forget about the water scarcity. I promise, no matter which floor you live on, there will not be a water fountain on it. It will always be at least two floors down and in some parts of the building you will never be able to properly describe once you have returned to your dorm. 

The existence of East Quad demands an explanation. An answer, something, anything. Because why would East Quad exist in its current state just because it is what it is? Surely, there must be some deep dark secret explaining how East Quad came into existence. But there is nothing. No paper trail past who designed the building, in what style it was built, and on what year it was made. All that exists are the stories, the “what ifs?” East Quad is an integral part of the Brandeis campus lore. Its murky beginnings lend itself to stories passed down from seniors to juniors to sophomores to wide-eyed freshmen. Everyone loves a good mystery, and East Quad fulfills that hunger.

 Officially, there are more than two named residence halls within East Quad: Hassenfeld-Krivoff Residence Hall, Shapiro Brothers Residence Hall, and Pomerantz-Rubenstein Residence Hall. By now, only Hassenfeld and Pomerantz are used when describing where a person lives on campus – the other names have been lost in obscurity. 

Sometime, likely in the future, East Quad will no longer exist. It will be repurposed, rebuilt, and perhaps, forgotten. But for now, down the hill, off center from the main campus and ridiculed, East Quad still stands. It is not what it once was–it is the subject of continuous jokes and mockery and walking down its hallways alone at night conjures imagery from a horror film.

From the long hallways to the waffle square ceilings, I am constantly confused by the buildings’ design. At the very least, East Quad never grows old. Like the mold that grows in Rosie and Ziv, East Quad is growing on me.



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