Campus Corners: Revson Plaza

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And now, for another installment of our regular feature, Campus Corners, in which Bwog contributor Mark Krotov illuminates the lesser-known gems of our fair campus, and inspires you to hang out somewhere other than your Wien single.

RevsonA few steps from the quaintness of Buell Hall and bold perch of Rodin’s The Thinker lies Revson Plaza, farther from classical aestheticism than any other place on campus. Situated on what is essentially an overpass above Amsterdam Avenue, Revson is accessible from the main campus in one of two ways: via a nice, traditional set of stairs next to Kent Hall, or via a comically awkward stair/ramp hybrid just north of Philosophy, whose unfortunately long steps guarantee that no one who walks down them will manage to do so with elegance. Once you conquer the climb, however, Revson rewards you with a stark modernity not often found on Columbia’s Campus.

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My first experience with Revson occurred as I was taking a walk my freshman year, when, at 2am, JJ’s Place was a less appealing option than the great outdoors. Since then, I cannot help but be awed by the plaza. At dusk, it is an especially bold observation deck—staring north up Amsterdam, one could imagine that Manhattan simply ends at the crest of that big hill, and that the rows of streetlights suddenly come to a halt beyond his line of sight.

But the plaza itself offers more than just a great view—the artwork as well is a compelling attraction. I do not know whether Three-Way Piece: Points is Henry Moore’s greatest sculpture, but it is certainly one of his most entertaining, as students get great enjoyment from the quixotic act of attempting to rotate the massive object; I myself have tried and failed. My personal favorite is David Bakalar’s Life Force, which provides a remarkable peephole into this massive and horizontal space.

Built to establish Columbia’s dominance over the surrounding neighborhood, Revson is an undeniably contradictory space. When I walk down Amsterdam under the plaza, I tend to think of it as a terrible failure that destroys at least a block of perfectly harmless street. That said, the plaza works best as a history lesson, harking back to a time when the University could undertake a project so imposing and get away with it—something that we might well be saying about Manhattanville in forty years’ time. Simultaneously, however, it is also a reminder of a once-universal faith in modernism. Unlike Lerner, a tragic example of overthinking and eclecticism, Revson is comfortable with its simplicity. And, for the most part, so am I.

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  1. DHI  

    Thing looks like a gunsight.

  2. i always thought  

    it a had a vague reference to "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" since it was near the law school, but maybe that is just a coincidence. knowing modern art though, everything is intentional.

  3. to me  

    it looks like a giant vagina through which all of manhattan, be it harlem or downtown, is being slowly, miraculously expulsed, amidst the birth canal's fluids of car exhaust and second-hand smoke.

  4. nbf  

    other thank your wien single?

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