In the third part of my series on how Brandeis’ beloved Usen Castle has influenced some of the modern buildings on campus, I’d like to share my thoughts on East Quad. Home to around 400 sophomores, East Quad was constructed in 1964 in the Modernist style. East consists of three buildings: Hassenfeld Hall, which houses around 250 students, Pomerantz Hall, which houses around 150 students, and the Swig Student Center, once a dining hall but now home to the Brandeis Intercultural Center (ICC).
Hassenfeld and Pomerantz are technically composed of six “houses”: Hassenfeld, Krivoff, Shapiro, Pomerantz, and Rubenstein. Once arranged in suites, each of these “houses” had its own entrance, staircase, and multiple floors of suites. If you live in one of the East singles with a wall of windows, your room was once the lounge of a six-person suite. Interestingly, in the conversion to single and double rooms in corridors, the “house” names other than Hassenfeld and Pomerantz lost their cultural significance and are no longer used.
In this early drawing, East Quad looks very sleek and modern. The thin strips of windows enhance the building’s verticality. You can also see how Hassenfeld and Pomerantz curve with the hill.
The early drawings of East Quad portray a minimalist feel to the design, which unfortunately has been ruined with overgrowth of the greenery around the buildings. The monochromatic drawing also emphasizes the bright white of the walkways, stairs, concrete “belts” around the buildings. If you’re a little artistic-minded, you might link the sidewalks, concrete “belts” of the buildings, and clouds together, then the grass, trees, brick exteriors, and sky in an interesting duality. In another sign of age, the concrete features of East Quad have turned from white to dark gray over the years.
East, in directly facing our hillside castle, has an important job in mirroring some castle-like features.
Like the Castle, East Quad is defined by towers made of masonry and few windows.
Like a real castle, East Quad has a draw bridge! OK, so it doesn’t really raise and lower, but it bridges a deep moat-like gap.
Usen Castle has some amazing circular staircases. They’ve all been closed to students, of course. East Quad, however, takes the traditional circular staircase and puts some modern flair to it. The staircases in East Quad are triangular and hollow through the center. Like in a castle, you go round and round, up and up, to make your way to to the top. It can be a little dizzying.
If you read my post about the Rosenstiel Science Center, then this picture should look somewhat familiar. Usen Castle, Rosenstiel, and East all share a common feature–crenelation. Designed to provide places for archers defending a castle to both hide and shoot, a crenelation is a short wall on the top of a building that has multiple rectangular spaces cut out of it in a pattern.
To end on a more comedic note, if you’ve ever been to Hass 2 or Pom 1 when the hall lights were out, then you know that it can look pretty dungeon-like. Except for a light at the very end of the hall (and not even that if you’re there after dusk), all you can see is dirty walls, some brick, a few mysterious pipes, a strange waffle-block ceiling, a bunch of dark gray-painted doors, and an even darker carpet.
In summary, East Quad is a fascinating example of Brandeis modernist architecture. It’s probably one of the most under-appreciated buildings on campus, mostly due to its state of disrepair. If you live in East, take pride!
One response to “The Castles of Brandeis: Part III – East Quad”
I’ve always felt East was underappreciated. Apparently when it opened it known as the really cool dorm. It is a shame it’s fallen into such a crummy state. I also didn’t realize it used to be suites. I would be interested to learn about Brandeis’ bizarre tradition of retrofitting things or changing things from their original purpose (Kutz, Swig, etc.).