When it comes to course registration, we students are primarily concerned with factors like credit counts, subjects, professors and meeting times. Understandably, venue-related factors (things like interior ambiance or architectural charm) are low-priority.
That said, after a few semesters you can’t help noticing differences in quality among the buildings on campus. You wouldn’t, for example, drop a major requirement just because Shaffer Hall has bad vibes. Still, there’s nothing wrong with a little discernment. Three years into my college career, I’ve seen the range that Homewood has to offer, and it’s time I share my findings.
Though I have my own tastes, each building has unique advantages and disadvantages. So in the interest of integrity, I've developed a rating system with more than one metric of quality, each rated out of 10. According to my system, the ideal building will achieve a balance of three qualities: comfort, utility and character.
1. Mudd Hall
Starting off with an uncontroversial favorite, Mudd Hall immediately makes a solid case for itself. The pleasing symmetry of the building’s exterior is nothing to sniff at, and just inside you’ll find the Mudd Atrium, arguably a top-three study spot. The atrium is constructed in a mystifying way that somehow makes the natural light filtering in look even more natural than it does outdoors. There’s also the Daily Grind, which not only serves excellent coffee but also adds a certain atmospheric texture that wins points across the board.
2. Gilman Hall
Gilman Hall has a special place in my heart as a humanities student, but putting that aside, there’s still a lot to love. The Federal-style building with its lofty clocktower has a look that screams capital-I Institution, imposing and inviting at the same time. Inside, the Hutzler Reading Room manages to feel cozy even with stained-glass windows and high ceilings — maybe because the view from the window is just asphalt and some trees but also because of the warm light and the walls that are, in my opinion, the perfect shade of green.
In practice, the Gilman experience is mostly climbing up and down staircases until you’re winded and feeling like you’re always walking in the wrong direction. I would argue this is part of the charm, but I recognize that not everyone sees it that way.
Gilman Atrium is also a respectable study spot, but it has an aloof, off-putting vibe and always feels a few degrees too cold. The shuttered Gilman café, which once rivaled the Daily Grind, is now just another reminder of Mudd Atrium’s superiority.
3. Milton S. Eisenhower (MSE) Library
There’s something haunting about MSE, especially if you stand at one end of the room and look down the shelves to the opposite end. I guess it’s cool that we have access to so many books, but then I start thinking about how many just sit there for years, untouched.
Then there are the moments of pure degradation when you can’t find an empty seat and spend a good 20 minutes wandering the aisles of C-level like a confused ghost, but also? Fitting.
4. Hodson Hall
From the outside, Hodson Hall seems to have everything going for it. The landscaping that frames the entrance does a lot of the heavy lifting, creating the impression of some tucked-away hillside lodge.
Unfortunately, the interior falls short in almost every way. The aesthetic is confused, as though the entire budget went into stately architectural flourishes without anyone accounting for furniture, so they had to throw in a few random tables and benches last-minute. And the color scheme — browns, beiges, yellows and blues — is downright offensive.
The aesthetic problems only escalate as you reach the upper floor, where the immediate path ahead is blocked by a load-bearing column and, behind that, a square granite table that dominates the center of the room. I’ve never seen anything on the table, so it doesn’t seem to have a purpose other than briefly infuriating me each time I have to make a snap decision to walk either left or right around it.
Hodson’s redeeming qualities are its large windows and natural light. Once, though, I had a class in a Hodson room where no one could find the button to open the remote-controlled shades, and by the end of the semester we were so desperate for daylight that we were propping one shade up with a stool.
5. Garland Hall
Here’s a history lesson for all you baby Blue Jays: That weird modernist block that sits next to Decker Quad, the one that kind of looks like a radiator, is Garland Hall. Once upon a time, Garland was a hub for student services along with administrative offices. That was until the 2019 Garland Sit-In, a student protest against the formation of the JHPD. In response, the administration punted most student services to the Wyman Park Building.
I’ve never been inside Garland, and if you haven’t already, you probably never will. This adds mystery, and mystery adds intrigue.
6. Wyman Park Building
Thanks to the pandemic introducing Zoom into our lives, students can avoid Wyman Park Building altogether given they only meet with advisors online. I’d recommend taking at least one of those appointments in person, if only to get a whiff of Wyman’s deeply cryptic vibe.
Wyman was once the Baltimore Marine Hospital, winning points for the sense of history. I’m also charmed by the current state of semi-disuse, which feels permanent in an accidental way.
7. Freshman Annex (2020–22)
Gone and bound to be forgotten, the abominated structure known as the Freshman Annex was dismantled over the summer and removed from its native quad.
There’s not much to say about the Annex except that no one seemed to like or use it — and yet it persisted for two long years. The end of an era.