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.