live in Lawrinson Hall, which is one of many dorms on the Syracuse
campus. With twenty-one floors, it happens to be the tallest, and
is located in the very corner of campus. Square in shape, the building
is a tall tower of reinforced concrete and clear glass windows. It
is a large mass of perfectly horizontal and vertical crossing lines
in perfect symmetry. This building would make nineteenth century French
architect Le Corbusier proud. Le Corbusier felt that “the curve
is ruinous, difficult and dangerous; it is a paralyzing thing”
(Taylor 26). Just as Le Corbusier would have preferred, there are
no curves in Lawrinson. It is a grid. However, this grid has paralyzed
the students who call it home by restricting social interaction. In
fact, Lawrinson resembles a prison both in form and function.
addition to the poor layout that decreases social interaction among
floor mates, floors are divided by gender. Any contact with others
on my floor is therefore with the same sex, which greatly reduces
the diversity of people I am likely to meet. Floors are also fairly
small with only thirty members. Most other dorms on campus contain
more than twice as many students. As for the rooms themselves, they
are not overly small, but all double rooms are split down the middle
with an inner wall, separating my roommate and me into our own respective
“cells.” Lawrinson’s eighteen floors may make it
the biggest dorm on campus, but it is hardly the most socially centered.
may be predisposed to resemble a jail due to the era in which it was
built. It was erected in 1964 when student populations grew across
the country and efficient housing was needed for the influx of people.
One defining feature of Lawrinson that follows this train of thought
is the deficiency of good communal space built into the architecture.
For example, the lobby lacks communal space. This bare minimum is
not a very welcoming environment for students to conduct social activity.
It encourages students to retreat directly to their rooms without
interacting with others, much like prisoners are sent straight to
their cells after outdoor exercises.
are two other communal areas which students may go to that are not
as limited as the lobby area. The first area is located on the second
floor. Access is limited to steps and just one elevator. In the lounge
area there is a pool table, a ping-pong table, and several couches.
In addition, hidden in one corner there is a computer cluster. Until
very recently, the walls were a bland white. I rarely see people on
the second floor taking advantage of this “ambiance.”
Mostly, students come only to the computer clusters to do work, not
to socialize in the lounge. The second communal area is on the very
top floor of Lawrinson. It is an open area used for large groups to
meet through reservations only. It is not intended for everyday use
and most people are unaware of its presence since the elevators stop
at floor twenty. Lawrinson’s attempts at forming usable communal
areas have failed and only help to perpetuate the restriction of student
find it ironic that a building this tall can see so far across the
landscape of the city and fail to become a part of it. From my thirteenth
floor window, I can see a number of things: the campus and the Carrier
Dome on my right, the city straight ahead and to my left, and the
countryside beyond it all. As I stare at the many cars speeding down
Interstate 81, I realize I am looking at a world in motion. Yet, Lawrinson,
like a penal institution, is incorporated into neither the bustling
campus nor the city. It remains on the outskirts: a forgotten and
ignored structure. As a home to many Syracuse and SUNY-ESF students,
the isolation of Lawrinson can damper the growth of our social circles.
structure of Lawrinson works almost like an office building, where
people are holed up in little areas to diligently do their work. Unlike
an office building, however, there is no water cooler to gather around.
Did the architects feel that students would be more productive if
they were given no outlets for social interaction? If this was their
way thinking, they would be incorrect. According to Taylor, who discusses
the efficiency of the assembly line, “a worker’s day [.
. . ]was divided into equal but separate parts. Within the all-encompassing
logic of industrialism, work, leisure, and rest are designed to promote
efficiency and thus increase profitable production.” Without
adequate leisure and socializing time, Taylor says a kind of tension
develops among workers, or for our purpose, students. Taylor goes
on to say that a student’s production “cannot work without
an equally calculated social engineering” (29). By inhibiting
students’ social interaction, Lawrinson Hall could potentially
hurt their academics as well.
the many disadvantages of Lawrinson, students have tried to make the
building work for them. In applying “Foucault’s analysis
of the structures of power,” Lawrinson is an example where “spatial
practices in fact secretly structure the determining conditions of
social life.” This relates the structure of Lawrinson Hall to
the disciplining of its residents to have little social interaction.
However, there exists “a contradiction between the collective
mode of administration and an individual mode of reappropriation.”
This reappropriation is performed by students as a way to circumvent
the “disciplinary society” that is so prevalent in Lawrinson
(de Certeau 96). One way students recapture their social interactions
is by choosing to spend their free time outside the confines of Lawrinson.
Many times, students visit friends at other resident halls. These
halls are student-centered hubs of activity that are better planned
to allow for social interaction. Even the names of the halls relate
closer to the purpose of their construction. For example, Haven Hall
sounds like a place where students can spend their leisure time in
a relaxing environment. Lawrinson sounds much more penal, as though
there are strict laws which all residents must abide by. Proper names
were a very important concept to de Certeau. He writes: “Proper
names carve out pockets of hidden and familiar meanings. They ‘make
sense’; in other words, they are the impetus of movements, like
vocations and calls that turn or divert an itinerary by giving it
a meaning (or a direction) that was previously unforeseen (104).”
Lawrinson is a name that connotes the meaning of a structured, law-abiding
place. It is not the so-called “haven” where students
live, work, and play within its walls. Other examples of students’
attempts to break out of the strict anti-social surroundings of Lawrinson
include those individuals who smoke. They congregate out on the concrete
patio much like cellmates would do in the jail yard, and form cliques
of their own. However, this practice excludes those residents who
do not have the vice. In addition, neighboring rooms on each floor
at times form cliques. Though small, these groups once formed become
very close-knit. Another aspect of Lawrinson’s residents concerns
the sophomores who live there. These sophomores may not encounter
the same troubles as many freshman within the building due to their
ability to choose friends from the previous year to room with or reside
on the same floor. Although this eliminates difficult socialization
somewhat due to their ready-made social networks, it also increases
the troubles experienced by freshman. The average floor has eight
or nine sophomores, which further reduces the number of people willing
to associate with the new freshman. Despite this apparent setback
for freshman, many students do in fact find ways to make Lawrinson
a home in the way many prisoners make life in prison work for them.
Lawrinson may be reminiscent of a prison, I, along with over five
de Certeau, Michel. “Walking in the City.” The Practice of Everyday Life. Trans. Steven
Johnson, Steven. Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software.
Taylor, Mark C. The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture. Chicago