In Defense of…Wien

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Welcome back to our weekly-ish series, “In Defense Of”, in which we get behind the most maligned elements of Columbia life. This time, it’s everyone’s favorite housing bogey.


Wien is the ugly ducking of Columbia housing, synonymous with the worst kind of lottery luck— Rusty pipes! Institutional corridors! Vermin of all kinds!

But the popular mythology has been unfair to Wien Hall. It was not first a mental institution, as the lore would have it, but rather a colonially-inspired McKim Mead and White original designed to evoke a “homey” feel for its exclusively female residents. And beyond its soft, gentle beginnings, Wien has a host of redeeming characteristics that make it a fine place to spend a year of your life.

Most of the rooms are small and somewhat cell-like, to be sure—but no more so than singles in River or Broadway, and most have generously-sized windows that look out onto a serene courtyard, lending them at least the illusion of space. The corner walk-through doubles are light-filled and glorious. And no, there are no floor lounges, but a) who hangs out in floor lounges anyway and b) there’s a cavernous, beautiful space on the first floor if you must leave your room.

The amenities are good and improving; recent renovations have put in new washer/dryers on the second floor and an airy computer lab that looks out through arched windows.

What Wien doesn’t have, it outsources. EC nightlife is nearby, and you can leave the morning stank of barf and alcohol in their elevators. For beats-JJ’s-middle-of-the-night deliciousness, Hamdel is around the corner. Rather than Butler, you’ll end up doing work in the Law School, which is serene and sanctified by the presence of Ruth Bader Ginsburg gazing out from her portrait.

Its final saving grace: We at Bwog love the PrezBo, and Wien brings you closer to him than any other University residence. Early risers might catch him heading out on a run, or walking briskly to his morning business. And from some of the bathrooms, you can actually see into his back yard, which sometimes treats you to the elegant strains of a string quartet wafting up from an evening soiree. It is, above all, a civilizing experience.

Finally, you probably won’t know your neighbors–composed of those jumbled together in the dregs of general selection, the atmosphere can be downright anti-social. But by the time you get here, you need to have weaned yourself (ha) from the comfy cocoon of a res hall floor. You’re a sophomore, anyhow. You don’t need that shit.


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  1. ...  

    i have a girl crush on Lydia

  2. cc '10  

    you forgot to mention the best thing of all: a sink in your room! downside: walls are pretty thin

    it's mostly juniors who dorm and it's not terribly anti-social. wien so far has been nothing but good times.

  3. lol  

    This was a funny post, but you failed to mention the most unique and bizarre feature of Wien rooms: sinks in the singles. Discuss.

    • Alum

      John Jay rooms had sinks until the mid-80s. They were taken out when the building was renovated, because the pipes were in bad condition and would have cost a lot of money to repair.

      The two dorms were designed by the same architects and went up at about the same time. I don't know whether that was part of a trend at the time, but I have seen apartments from the same era with sinks in the master bedrooms. A sink of one's own was considered quite a luxury in its day.

  4. what's the most  

    common snack served in this dorm?


  5. what about  

    What about the paper-thin walls? Because I really need to hear the e-mo music from my neighbor 2 doors down.

  6. wien!  

    Wien is simply the best! I came in expecting horrible living conditions but Wien had definitely grown on me! It's surprisingly cozy! and I have a gorgeous view of the courtyard.
    The downside is the paperthin wall.
    Upside: a sink!

  7. Vienna

    Too bad they eliminated the coed bathrooms. Good times.

  8. disgusted  

    What about the horrible fact that there is only one bathroom on each floor!

  9. plus  

    AMAZING water pressure. Seriously, it almost hurts.

  10. Erf

    Second that. Wien's showers are the best I've ever experienced. Their water usage is environmentally tragic, but damn do I come out feeling clean

  11. wien resident  

    not having floor lounges sucks. one kitchen for the entire building sucks. being forced to buy columbia food for a full year sucks.

    otherwise, it's not so bad. but not having floor lounges really, really, really sucks.

  12. Ruggles Resident  

    Living it up in my ruggles sweet with my (pleasant) light green walls, new floors, 2 bathrooms (for 4 people) with amazing shower pressure, large fridge, and massive rooms.

    It's good to be a senior.

  13. E '08

    Wien wasnt so bad. I jacked off to my neighbor's sexytimes, which I heard in full 6.1 surround sound. The sink was convenient for this. I lived in the corner and had TWO windows, one with a view of Harlem and LaGuardia.

  14. anon

    I don't think anything can make up for the prospect of finding a toilet in your room without having had your rights read to you.

  15. take the piss out  

    Wein sinks are for late-night, drunken pissing.

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