I recently got back from a road trip to New York… Mainly to visit a couple of prospective grad schools, but also to visit my church in NYC and catch up with some old friends there.I briefly visited Columbia, and although I generally liked what I saw, I wasn’t blown away by it, either. Avery Hall is incredibly cramped, and people are practically sitting on top of each other in the studios. Lots of computers, naturally, but relatively little in the way of models or hand drawings. While walking around, most people seemed inclined to avoid eye contact and pretend I wasn’t there. Being a former NYC resident, I guess I shouldn’t have expected any differently, but it would have been nice to at least gotten a friendly “hello” from somebody.
I spent Monday evening and all day Tuesday up in Ithaca, and spent most of that time hanging around the Cornell campus and the surrounding area. Ithaca itself actually reminds me a lot of Eugene, Oregon… Smallish college town, incredible natural beauty, and lots of flannel and granola. Cornell itself was very nice, and I had a good meeting with Dr. Lily Chi, the director of the graduate architecture program. She gave me a few helpful pointers about my portfolio, gave me tons of information about the program, and led me on a brief tour of the facilities before setting me loose to explore Rand Hall on my own. Rand Hall itself is rather old and decrepit, but much more spacious than Avery, and looks like a cool place with a lot of creative energy… I especially loved the top floor studios. In general, there seemed to be much more of a balance between computers and hand drawings and models, which I appreciated. Dr. Chi introduced me to a couple of the students there, and they were happy to answer any questions I had.
I happen to love waterfalls, so later in the day I did some exploring around the area and got some photos of some of the nicer falls nearby. The Cornell campus reminded me of Rivendell… How many other colleges can claim to have large canyons and waterfalls directly adjacent to the campus? Even if I don’t wind up in Ithaca for grad school, I may have to build myself a vacation house there someday.
Overall, I was much more impressed with Cornell than with Columbia, not only in terms of the welcome and the general vibe I got, but also in terms of the facilities and the program itself. Of course, where I end up going is up to the respective admissions committees of the schools I’m applying to, but I feel safe in saying that Cornell is my #1 pick at the moment.
For those who are interested, I’ve posted some photos from my trip:
Cathedral of St. John the Divine, NYC
This is my home church in New York, and is currently undergoing a massive cleaning and restoration project as the result of a severe fire in 2001. The nave is currently closed for restoration, but the Great Choir has recently been re-opened, and the results are spectacular.
Ithaca, Cornell, and environs
Okay, not much in the way of Cornell itself, but several photos of Fall Creek Gorge and Taughannock Falls.