This is my third year living and attending school in New Brunswick, and I honestly had not paid much attention to the built environment around me until I set out to write this blog post. The first thing I noticed is the variety in everything from the architectural design of the buildings to the sidewalks on the street. Many things seemed incohesive, even structures on the same road. This is likely due to the fact that the campus has changed a lot over the years and original structures are decades older than the new ones that have been erected right next to them, but I do not think it would be that difficult to maintain a level of uniformity. The first few images I will compare and contrast are three Greek houses on Union Street.
This is a photo I took while standing on the sidewalk of Phi Mu, a Panhellenic sorority. One of the grander houses on campus, it is arguably more reminiscent of traditional Greek fraternity/sorority houses than any other house at Rutgers. When one conjures images of Greek housing, a brick house with grand columns is often pictured, as that is typical of the houses at large organizations in the South and those depicted in Greek life in movies and television shows. I like that the walkway is long and the grassy area in front of the house is quite large. It is far removed from the sidewalk, and the gated entry as well as the hedges provide a sense of privacy.
This is a photo I took while standing in the street in front of Zeta Tau Alpha, another Panhellenic sorority. The whole house cannot be seen from this vantage point, but while I do not believe it to be significantly less square footage than the Phi Mu house, it appears much smaller because of the design of the structure. It does not look like a traditional Greek house, and does not have the same level of grandeur as the Phi Mu house. This is partly due to the short distance between the sidewalk and the start of the house – to provide a level of comparison, I took this photo farther back standing on the street, and I took Phi Mu’s standing on the sidewalk. There is also no demarcation from the street to the house, unlike Phi Mu’s gated entry.
This is a photo of Phi Delta Theta, a fraternity at Rutgers. It is another spacious house with columns, a large porch, and even a fireplace. While I like many elements of this structure, such as the fence and far distance from the sidewalk, I believe the ramp with the railings in front of the house was a stylistic error. Both Phi Mu and Zeta Tau Alpha have ramps for handicap accessibility, but theirs are more subtle and do not detract from the appearance of the houses. This is a side view of the house, but Phi Delta Theta’s ramp leads directly from the center of the sidewalk, up the entire lawn, to the front door. Additionally, while these three houses are all within a one-minute walk of each other, they look markedly different.
Finally, this is a photo of the intersection between Somerset St and Easton Ave. The building partially visible on the top left is the Gateway Transit building, and this photo is taken from the store Scarlet Fever. The issue I have with the design of this area is the inconsistency in sidewalk design. Across the street, the sidewalk is obviously newer as it was likely redone when the Gateway building was built. The builders added a brick accent, perhaps because they thought it was more aesthetically pleasing and matched the brick exterior of the new structure. However, the details in the new sidewalk sharply contrast with the dingy, plain sidewalk just across the street. I believe that there should be a sense of uniformity in a city, especially on the same street, and the existing sidewalk should have had the bricks added into it.