Last year, as a freshman, I lived in the Walker Tower dorms. Along with Couch and Adams Towers, it stands apart as having a wildly unique building design. It’s a twelve-story building in the shape of a plus sign, with four wings that project outward from the center. The outside of the building is all covered in brick, and each wing is an alternating series of vertical stripes of inset windows or brick. The inset windows and the ends of each wing are decorated with large off-white square projecting ledges, one layer to each floor, giving the building a spiny appearance.
Most buildings have a rectangular footprint, or at least a compact footprint, especially tall buildings with double-digit numbers of floors. Walker Tower, however, sprawls outwards, seeming to stretch and extend rather than be compact and efficient. I suppose that it was probably built with tornadoes in mind, because a wider base with extensions makes it more stable and less prone to toppling. However, it has the effect of sequestering the building into sharply separated halls. The two west halls are for boys, and the two east halls are for girls. On some floors, the two boys’ halls are connected to each other, as are the two girls’ halls, but on others, they’re divided into non-adjoining north/south halls, creating even more of a compartment atmosphere.
The outside of the building, with its ledges and recessions, seemed to me to suggest a hive, which was the main impression the dorms left on me. Divisions and subdivisions; I’m delineated by building, floor, side, hall, suite, room. My room felt like my little corner, a bubble, of sorts, a compartment tucked away in the middle of this massive hive. Maybe if I’d spent more time with people on my floor and hanging out in other rooms on my floor, it would have felt more communal, but the way that the hallways radiate away from each other, rather than running parallel, certainly contributed to the niche feeling.
In no way is Walker Tower an elegant building. The outside is jagged, all corners, edges, points, and right angles. It comes out of the ground and rises directly upward until it stops. It isn’t ugly, per se, but it certainly took some time to adjust to.