In Praise of Architecture

Storms are bad, but fortunately buildings keep us safe

The Harvard Crimson does not approve of hurricanes or tropical storms. This past Sunday night, Hurricane Sandy posed a serious inconvenience to those who attended The Harvard Crimson’s editorial board meeting. Wind and rain forced students to don a level of raingear perhaps not seen on Harvard students since the revelries of the University’s 375th anniversary. It was quite unpleasant, but thankfully we had some sturdy buildings to keep us safe. These buildings serve as a physical reminder of the many collective institutions and stores of cumulative knowledge without which we would be much worse off.

First of all, we must congratulate the Crimson staff of years past for their wisdom in not locating our offices outdoors. The decision to provide housing for our newspaper was a truly wise one. We only regret that our predecessors did not have the aesthetic sensibilities to style our building’s façade in the neo-romanesque fashion.

However, at a time when our nation’s political dialogue is largely concerned with who built what, we must acknowledge that those Crimson editors did not build our newspaper’s offices themselves. Even Howard Roark couldn’t have built it himself. It is impossible not be struck by the massive amount of people who deserve commendation for giving us shelter from the storm.

It goes without saying that the Commonwealth’s public infrastructure must have been vital for builders, architects and construction material to all find their way to 14 Plympton Street. It is heartening to see that $1.651 billion has been allocated toward infrastructure, housing, and economic development in this upcoming year’s state budget for Massachusetts. Hopefully this will result in increased office space for the staff of many more of this state’s college newspapers.

Perhaps most crucially, this building, and the various public works that facilitated its construction, would not have been possible without a long line of innovations in the field of architecture. We must thank those daring Neolithic ancestors of ours who first saw the prudence in erecting structures to house themselves and who continue to inspire us to this day. The Knap of Howar still stands, and so does our admiration for its architect. In the silver-grey bricks of this sturdy Scottish homestead, it is hard not to see a direct ancestor of Winthrop House.

It is fitting that, when faced with an act of God, we are best able to appreciate how we continue to benefit from the most enduring acts of humanity. We urge God to reconsider sending hurricanes and tropical storms our way. In the meantime, we urge humankind to continue building.