Harmony Hop

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All herald the return of RoomHop! Bwogger Mark Hay leads a tour through the thorough mystery that is Columbia’s newest dormitory, Harmony Hall.

Coming to Harmony Hall is a truly anachronistic and unsettling experience. Originally the playhouse of The Explorers’ Club, Harmony (at least externally) retains much of the quirk and flair of its original owners. To put that positively, the building features beautiful and exotic paintings on its façade. To put that negatively, the building’s elevator – a clanking and whirring beast too small to accommodate a gurney (Is this safe? Probably not.) – makes one seriously contemplate the concept of mortality. This strange beauty, though, really has no bearing on the lives of Harmony’s residents.

Instead, Harmony residences feel just like any other dorm known to Columbia-kind. Save the size, that is. While the host of Bwog’s Harmony adventure tour (Max Pensack, CC’11) had a room of tolerable size (117 square feet), his neighbor, with a room (of 70-some square feet) pushing the limits of New York habitation laws and the Geneva Convention alike, had decided to flee her situation.

But where space diminishes, privacy increases. Living in Harmony, one need not seek out Butler or Avery for a quiet place to study. The snaking of the hallways, created for the illusion of space, adds to this feeling of privacy. However, with the sounds of thin voices drifting through thinner walls, walking down a Harmony Hall is like being assaulted by the subtle ghosts of social lives past (size and location mean Harmony is not a social beacon).

The size of Max’s room did pose several problems to creativity: no space to move furniture and only a small amount of room to represent one’s self pictorially. However, the view from the higher floor quite makes up for the lack of decoration capabilities. Corner rooms, though, lose the view as well, as at least one of their windows looks across into a neighbor’s room. Our host kept his shades drawn most of the time, probably in hopes of avoiding a strange “Rear Window” situation.            

Peace and quiet are Harmony’s main draw – a slight removal from the hustle and tedium of college life. And although it is quite a schlep from Harmony to, say, Knox Hall, the minds behind Harmony offer an excellent bike storage facility to offset that cost. A nice perk, to be sure, but it hardly offsets the fact that nothing else in Harmony works. At the time of Bwog’s visit, not only were the promised computer/printing stations still non-functional, but so was floor eight’s fancy flat-screen television and, sadly, the building’s fire alarm system.

All bugs and hitches to be worked out in short order, of course. But riding down the grinding and screeching elevator, one feels just for a moment that no matter the trinkets or gadgets, no matter the gutting and revamping, Harmony will remain perpetually quaint, a peaceful haven plucked from the past and not fully confident in its current location. And as one would expect of such a temporally displaced structure, neither Harmony, nor its residents seem to know just how to feel about the building.

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  1. holy shit bwog  

    were you TRYING to take crappy pictures?

  2. Alum

    Harmony is not "Columbia's newest dormitory". It's been a Columbia dorm for decades, predating Broadway, Schapiro and East Campus. It housed law students (and a few other grad students) until this year.

    • But  

      It is Columbia's newest undergraduate dormitory, which is for all intents and purposes, what Bwog means.

      Grad student housing isn't really called "dorms," anyway. It's considered "apartment housing," so the word "dorm" implies undergraduates.

      • Alum

        The *current* stock of grad student housing is almost 100% apartments, but several of the current undergrad dorms -- including Wien, Watt, Hogan, Woodbridge and 47 Claremont, along with part of East Campus -- used to house grad students. Aside from Woodbridge, they were called dorms even then. Harmony is the last of these buildings to be converted to undergrad housing.

        • #6 from above  

          Yeah, so? That may have been a relevant point back in 1973, but as you yourself point out, grad students now live in apartments. Thus, the correction you issued earlier ("Harmony is not 'Columbia's newest dormitory'") is unnecessary and -- more likely than not -- designed to show off how deep a font of Columbia wisdom you fancy yourself.

          • Alum

            With an attitude like that you, write as if I'm the one being a jerk?

            Grad students lived in Harmony until four months ago, so the information is still timely. And believe it or not, some people like to get a historic perspective on recent developments.

  3. XXXXXAM  

    Is a robot out to destroy us all. Stop it before it's t--KILL ALL HUMANS. KILL ALL HUMANS.

  4. since  

    when is 117 sf only "tolerable" for a junior year single? I thought that was fairly standard

  5. where is this?  

    is this near broadway? i've been trying to find it

  6. #15  

    i looked everywhere for it this afternoon and i still can't find it

    is someone willing to show me where it is?

  7. dude

    Seriously? I linked you to a page with the address and a picture. Someone already told you which avenues its between. This shouldn't be so hard...

    But, since I'm in a good mood, behold, Google Street View:,-73.965706&panoid=obfrP7b7qf9UFStedL34Dg&cbp=12,230.52,,0,-26.53&ll=40.803602,-73.965891&spn=0,359.997267&z=19

  8. chill

    relax alum. perhaps you've forgotten that the bwog takes a distinctly undergraduate view of the world, since its an undergraduate institution. so as far as they're concerned, it is Columbia's newest dormitory. let's all just get along?

    -fellow alum who also enjoys correcting people regarding columbiana

  9. Alum

    Maybe I misunderstood what you wrote. The first photo on this page was taken from Harmony. The photo on the page which comment #17 links to is a view of Harmony from across 110th Street.

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