Today’s Syrinx is the first in a series I will do at the University of Pennsylvania, where I received my MA in history and went on to my current status as ABD (“all but dissertation”) Ph.D. Here, I play Debussy on the portico of College Hall. Behind me you can see the Fisher Fine Arts Library. I spent a lot of time in both buildings – College Hall because it is the home of the history department and the Fisher library reading and taking out books for art history courses. College Hall, designed by Thomas Webb Richards and completed in 1873, is the oldest building on the University’s current campus in West Philadelphia. It is known for the green hue of the serpentine stone used in the lower part of the building. During my graduate studies in history, I attended classes and met with my professors in their offices in this building. I never stopped on the way in or out to play Debussy though! The stone enclosure creates a good sound, which you can hear despite the wind and physical plant.
Architect Frank Furness’s library, completed in 1891, is considered one of the great 19th-century American buildings. In contrast with traditional library buildings, such as those in Boston and New York, which are like neoclassical temples of books, Furness’s library conveys tension and drama through its dynamic assymetry and deep crimson stone and brick.