The World’s 10 Weirdest College Campuses: Crazy University Architecture

Are you a student who is tired of staring at concrete blocks and sterile architectural forms during classes? Do you wish that your college employed a bit of whimsy or at least some award-winning architecture on campus? If you want to attend (or visit) a campus that holds some weird, crazy or fantastic architecture, you might consider one of the ten campuses listed below.

University of California San DiegoThese ten campuses are but a handful of college venues that have met challenges to form and function, yet that also have salvaged historic buildings or built new campuses that reflect the region or the mindset of the students who attend these schools. Included are a few campuses that may seem ‘normal’ on the outside, but their history belies this normalcy.

The colleges below are listed in alphabetical order to show our readers that we do not favor one campus over another:

  1. Flagler CollegeFlagler College: If you’re a fan of any building listed on the National Register of Historic Places, then you might like to attend or visit Flagler, located in St. Augustine, Florida. The school sits on nineteen acres and its centerpiece is the Ponce de Leon Hall (shown here), built in 1888 and designed by architects John Carrere and Thomas Hastings. This hall was, originally, designed as a luxury hotel for industrialist Henry Morrison Flagler. The architecture fits this city, a blend of Spanish colonial and Renaissance that is both flamboyant and functional. Since its founding in 1968, the college has spent more than $43 million to restore the historic buildings and to add new structures. Ponce de Leon Hall holds the female dormitories and the dining hall.
  2. Stata BuildingMIT: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge is known for its advancements in online courseware projects. But, their campus also is transforming with buildings like Simmons Hall, dedicated in 2002, and the Stata Center (shown here), which opened for occupancy in 2004. The latter building was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry and sits on the site of the former Building 20, which housed the historic Radiation Laboratory. Simmons Hall was designed by architect Steven Holl and is MIT’s most expensive dorm, built for the cost of $78.5 million. Also nicknamed “the sponge” for its appearance, Simmons Hall won the 2003 American Institute of Architects Honor Award for Architecture, but opinions are divided. The building also made James Kunstler’s “Eyesore of the Month” catalog.
  3. Randolph CollegeRandolph College: Located in Lynchburg, Virginia, founded in 1891, and a co-ed school since 2007 (previously a women’s college), the Princeton Review called this college’s dorms “palaces,” and the scenic mountain surroundings and small-town atmosphere make this campus alluring. But, there is one building on campus that may startle most people who learn about it for the first time. On the outside, the current Maier Museum of Art appears to be a normal piece of Georgian architecture. However, it was built to house all national art treasures safely during a nuclear war. The college signed a 50-year contract in 1951 with the National Gallery of Art for “Project Y.” National Gallery of Art administrators conducted periodic inspection visits to ensure that the building was well maintained and ready for use after it was constructed in 1952. No one ever acknowledge publicly that this building was a storage facility for national disaster until the early 1980s, when funds transformed the building into the museum that is open to the public today. Now, Project Y is fully acknowledged by both the college and the museum.
  4. RIT DubaiRIT Dubai: Rochester Institute of Technology already has satellite campuses in Croatia and Kosovo, and now — with a new location in Dubai — the college was under pressure to match the fantastic architectural atmosphere already underway in this United Arab Emirates (UAE) location. The ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Al-Maktoum, established a $10 billion foundation to supports projects such as RIT, so this money went a long way in the development of the campus shown here. RIT Dubai offers the same accredited degrees that are offered by Rochester Institute of Technology in the Rochester, New York campus (est. 1829). But, the Dubai campus, which opened in 2008, is located in the Dubai Silicon Oasis, one of the world’s leading centers of advanced electronic innovation and design. RIT Dubai is located in the headquarter for Dubai Silicon Oasis, and plans for an expansion to fit 4,000 students is expected by 2010, all expenses paid by the UAE.
  5. SCADSCAD-Atlanta: Previously known as the Atlanta College of Art, the school was acquired by the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2006 and has become the largest private arts college in the United States. Originally housed in the famous High Museum of Art‘s Woodruff Arts Center (shown here), SCAD has expanded to include a campus in the heart of midtown in what was the Equifax headquarters and was sold to Internet startup iXL, a company that invested over $21 million in building renovations before going under. SCAD also employs the Woodruff Arts grounds with a state-of-the-art dorm and a spacious sculpture facility. While the campus is enormous and crazy high-tech, the program itself is bizarre. This arts school, perhaps, is the only major arts school in the nation that includes intramural sports. The school maintains a fitness center that includes a swimming pool.
  6. Shipping and Transport CollegeShipping and Transport College: Located in Rotterdam, this college provides an atmosphere that suits the curriculum. The Shipping and Transport College in Rotterdam is the only education and training institute catering for the entire transport sector and for the port-related oil and chemical industry. The college is built to mimic stacks of shipping containers at port. An auditorium at the top of the structure cantilevers to point toward the ocean and to create a counterpoint to the square structure and design. Neutelings-Riedijk Architects designed the building, which opened in 2005. The high-rise architecture also points to practical use of space in a crowded port city.
  7. Florida Southern CollegeFlorida Southern College: Located in Lakeland, Florida, Florida Southern College was the happy recipient of the largest group of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the world. Ludd Spivey, college president from 1925 to 1957, contracted Wright to design the buildings, and twelve of the eighteen planned buildings were constructed between 1938 and 1958. Some buildings include the Annie Merner Pfeiffer Chapel (shown here), the administration building, the industrial arts building and the Polk County Science Building. Wright received an honorary doctorate from the college in 1950. Preservation work began on campus in 1007, and you can read more about this work at NPR.
  8. Jubliee LibraryUniversity of Nottingham’s Jubilee Campus: This university operates from four campuses, but the Jubilee campus is the award-winner and a strange environment for students who are more familiar with cement and uninspired perspectives. Housing the computer science and business schools, the Jubilee campus sits on the site of the former Raleigh Bicycle Company. It was designed by architects Michael Hopkins and Partners, winning the 2000 BCIA award for “Building of the Year” and the 2001 RIBA Journal Sustainability Award after opening in 1999. It is constructed around a lake and uses building elements such as grass roofs, solar panels and lake water for cooling. The most spectacular building is shown here — the Sir Harry and Lady Djanogly Learning Resource Centre — a library that sits on a platform in the middle of the artificial lake and that is built as one upwardly spiraling floor.
  9. University of California San DiegoUniversity of California, San Diego: UCSD is located on 1,200 acres near the Pacific Ocean, and is a lab for energy innovation as well as a designated sea and space grant institution. But, the campus is a fairyland filled with sculptural oddities, ‘graffiti tunnels’ at Mandeville Hall and architectural wonders including the Geisel Library pictured here. Named for Theodor Seuss Geisel (“Dr. Seuss”) and featured in UCSD’s logo, this particular building was designed in the late 1960s by William Pereira. Coined as “brutalist architecture,” these buildings usually are formed with repetitive angular geometries and, where concrete is used, often reveal the texture of the wooden forms used for the in-situ casting. This building also has a ‘missing’ third floor, which actually is the open/outside forum area.
  10. Venice International UniversityVenice International University: Geography, not architecture, is the highlight for this strange campus. Venice International University is located on the Island of San Servolo, 10 minutes by boat from Piazza San Marco. To get to the college, students must catch a boat from San Marco on the waterfront “Riva degli Schiavoni” from the landing dock in front of the Londra Palace Hotel. Or, for richer students (or for those who simply missed the boat), private water taxi can be the way to go. Established in 1995, VIU comprises ten universities, including two American entities.