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.