AskBwog: Why Are the Steps Un-Runnable?

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Anyone who has ever been late for a class knows that running up the uneven Steps of Low is basically impossible, even for the athletically inclined among us (i.e., not the Bwog staff). Many Columbians and pedestrians alike have puzzled over why the Steps’ spacing is so adverse towards mobility. Bwog’s Megan McGregor reports with answers:

Photo via CU Archives

Some tour guides have been heard telling prospies that the Steps were rebuilt after the ’68 riots to make storming Low a lengthy and difficult process.   WikiCU also states that the stairs “[serve] as a physical barrier distinguishing academics at the top (welcomed by Alma Mater) from the commoners below.”  Although these scenarios sound awesome, they were not the intentions of McKim, Mead and White. According to A Guide to Columbia University, a 1937 CU Press publication, the firm actually designed the stairs (and Low Plaza) to resemble the stylobate of the Parthenon (the lower level stretching 330 feet wide and constructed on a curve rising four inches in the center). The Steps we see today are the originals completed in 1897.

So next time you find yourself sprinting up Low’s onerous staircase, take a moment to appreciate the steps for what they are–not an anti-activist menace but our very own Grecian urban beach.

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  1. Yo  

    run diagonally up them. That's how I stole Prezbo's hat that one time.

  2. Anonymous  

    This is standard art hum fare. congrats bwog for listening in class.

  3. Diagonal attack is the way to go. Which is also how to play Connect Four against someone that is color blind.

  4. secret

    the sachems have a tomb under the steps.

  5. um  

    I was told this little tidbit during a tour before I even applied--either the tour guides have gone downhill, or that professor elitism comment they made was some rendition of the original grecian fare of gods vs laymen. In any case, I learned this tidbit once again in Stephanson's history of US Foreign Relations class when he informed us that the entire CU campus was copied from the imperialistic designs of the 1893 world fair.


    • Anonymous  

      During my tour I was told that it was the steps that are to the left of Philosophy that were built to be "unriotable." Whether or not that's true - those steps are still weird.

  6. seas kid  

    i run up the slanted part on either side of the steps. if i need to storm low itself, i'd climb up the side of the stairs behind the bushes so they couldn't see me. sneak attack!

  7. wtf?  

    i run up the stairs all the time... forwards

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