Awful Architecture

ADRIAN GRAY tells of the woes of his new home not quite living up to expectations.

architecture Cambridge Cambridge University Christ's College Freshers Janet Street Porter new court university

I’m fully aware that Christ’s New Court is about as pretty as an open wound made of Janet Street Porter. And, if you’re a fresher, there’s a reasonable chance you’re currently living inside something equally repugnant.

The trouble is that us students, encased in these angular turds of concrete shame, tend to assume that everyone else is as hyper-bothered about how they look as we are, which probably isn’t the case.

An example. My family visited last term and, prior to their arrival, were unaware even of New Court’s existence. As a New Court resident I found myself worried that my Cambridge life would seem disappointingly un-idyllic; consequently, I felt obliged to tackle the ‘I live in a metaphorical wound’ problem.

Did I, a) do the honest thing and admit that I live inside what appears to be a post-’86 Chernobyl factory complex shoehorned into a once car park? b) Admit I live inside New Court but refuse to acknowledge its abhorrence? Or, c) point vaguely to a window in First Court, shout ‘Yeah I think that one’s my room’, and then aggressively push my parents towards King’s Chapel?

On the face of it, option a) appeared to have the simplest consequences: my family would be rendered disappointed and disillusioned with me, Christ’s, Cambridge, architecture as a whole etc. Option b), however, was perhaps more interesting. The disappointment and disillusionment would remain, but there’d also be a sense that I’m incapable of noting how disgusting concrete is. Thus, although New Court’s repulsiveness would be made slightly less explicit, I’d most likely be judged on my own poor taste in multi-storey buildings. Option c) would essentially have avoided the New Court issue altogether, but was obviously flawed, as my parents would want to see my room properly rather than being flung towards a tourist mosh-pit half a mile away.

Succumbing to its vague scent of candour, I ended up choosing option a). The result? Well, it seemed as long as I made clear I understood New Court was vile, and did so in a jovial, confident manner that suggested I definitely didn’t regret greedily ticking the box marked ‘en suite’, there wasn’t too much of a problem. My brother responded with ‘Oh it’s not too bad: at least you don’t have to look at it – LOL!!!’ which, while essentially untrue due to New Court’s design, was obviously both hilarious and original.

It’s clear, then, that few visitors will ever be as troubled as us residents by the haunting aesthetic austerity of ‘newer courts’. Moreover, if you smother your own feelings of irritation and regret in a façade of cheery awareness, it will no doubt seem as though you’ve been completely habituated to late-60s modernist architecture.

Try something along the lines of: ‘Haha! Yeah! It’s horrible isn’t it! Eeurrrgh! I’m fine with it though! Haha.’ Almost definitely to be met with a response of: ‘It can’t be that bad living here. I mean look how immensely fine with it he clearly is’.