Rage against the machines

One of the most exciting aspects of Cornell is the way in which it’s constantly growing and changing (distinctly unlike the current season of Once Upon a Time). Forgive me if I’ve mentioned this before, but during my time here, I’ve seen the rise of Milstein Hall and the new Physical Sciences Building, a complete redevelopment of the Law School, and, of course, the addition of a spacious wing (with great acoustics and a beautiful Japanese garden!) to the Johnson Museum.

The flip side of this thrilling state of flux? Construction.

In case you’ve never been cursed with the misery of experiencing class in a room with boarded-up windows and the constant sound of machinery thumping about outside, the following figures from various pieces in the Western art historical canon (including the masterwork I’ve nicknamed “Simone Martini’s Cranky Pre-Teen Christ”) are here to help summarize my feelings on the subject.

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Here’s the thing you have to understand about studying the humanities at this institution–it’s highly likely that almost all of your classes will be in Goldwin Smith Hall. Now, I’m certainly not complaining about that: GWS was designed to serve as a kind of “temple to knowledge,” and its gorgeous architecture and prominent display of pieces from Cornell’s plaster cast collection sure beats a more austere design.

This semester, however, my initial joy at having multiple classes in a row in Goldwin Smith has been replaced with a sort of quiet fury, and it’s all thanks to the Klarman Hall construction project.

In the abstract, I am undoubtedly in favor of the new humanities building (slated to open in 2015), and I’m glad Cornell is showing their commitment to more sustainable building initiatives by seeking to make Klarman LEED Platinum Certified. The sleek modern design is a little too 2001: A Space Odyssey for my old-fashioned tastes, but I’m confident that the completion of Klarman will vastly improve the academic environment for Arts & Sciences students.

If only I were going to be around to see it finished!

For the time being, though, the embryonic Klarman is manifest only in windowless GWS rooms and, on occasion inescapable pounding sounds drowning out any student or professor who dares to use class time as an opportunity to, you know, speak. (Can you tell that two of my classes are held in the single classroom that is perhaps closest to the construction of all the Goldwin Smith spaces, and that noise has been an issue for the past few days?)

On a more positive note, perhaps the inevitable sonic consequences of construction are offering a rare opportunity to apply what I’ve learned in my Experimental Music class to a real-world situation! Instead of groaning and plugging my ears the next time a hammer or whatnot drowns out my learning experience, perhaps I should break out my equipment and make a field recording…