’60s-era design, not prison plans, inspired Warren

From the 24-hour security guards watching students swipe in to the long cinderblock hallways and square, dimly lit dorm rooms, Warren Towers residents might feel like they’re spending college life in a prison.

But rest easy, Warren residents: rumors that the architects who designed the residence hall also designed prisons are unsubstantiated. In fact, rather than prisons, Warren Towers architects Von Storch ‘ Burkavage actually designed two buildings for Cornell University — Lynah Rink and the Willard Straight Hall dining extension.

Warren Towers was built in the late 1960s, around the time many other campuses were building similarly large residence halls, BU Director of Housing Marc Robillard said. The baby boom generation was heading to college at that time, and more on-campus housing was needed to accommodate the quick growth.

Along with constructing the West Campus Complex, The Towers and Warren, BU acquired buildings like Myles Standish and Shelton Hall in the same time period, Warren Towers Residence Life Area Director Daryl Healea said.

“Some historians often refer to this era as the ‘Golden Age of Academia,’ because it was an age when student populations at institutions of higher education skyrocketed nation-wide,” Healea said. “Boston University built these large, utilitarian residence halls because there was a need.”

Still, residents agreed Warren can feel like a prison, citing everything from the cinderblock walls to the lack of accessible, nonemergency exits.

“Although there are many exits, most students only know to get in and out through the main escalators,” said Katherine King, a College of Arts and Sciences sophomore and C Tower resident. “If there were a fire in an area like that, I don’t know where we could go for alternate exits.”

King, who lived in a different dorm last year, but said she chose to move to Warren because of the in-building dining hall, said some qualities of the larger dorms on campus make them seem prison-like.

“The communal bathrooms and how incredibly thin the walls are,” she said.

While older students may dislike Warren for a number of reasons, communication and cooperation make the dorm the perfect place for freshman, Robillard said.

“It allows new students the opportunity to meet many other new people in a short period of time,” he said. “It is in the academic center of the campus, there is easy access to public transportation, it has a great dining room and it’s a campus icon.”

Healea called Warren “the quintessential university residence hall” — large enough to help residents meet new people, but small enough to let them form strong friendships.

“My hope is that by living in Warren Towers, residents will develop first-hand knowledge of the importance of community,” Healea said. “All-important life lessons that are taught outside the classroom.”

Second-year Warren resident Trevor Taylor said along with the convenience of a dining room and laundry machines, the large size of Warren is useful for upperclassmen wishing to keep a group of friends close by.

“But, next year, like I tell everyone who asks, I’m looking to live anywhere but Warren,” he said.

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