Pei dorms approach 50th birthday

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Despite the strong feelings for and against the dorm rooms, 50 years ago New College’s very own Pei dorm rooms were opened for use. Their own creator, I.M. Pei – the architect behind the Pyramide du Louvre in Paris and the East Wing of the National Gallery in Washington D.C. – was one of the voices standing against the dorm rooms since he couldn’t complete his wish of having the three courts on the water in the bay. Today, the dorm rooms are both admired by the general public, and scrutinized by many of the students who stay in them.

With a unique and modern design, the Pei courts have always garnered plenty of attention. Coming in at number 24 on “30 Most Inviting Yet Affordable College Dorms in America”, the Pei dorm rooms were labelled “magnificent”, and were praised for their focus on the creation of community. I.M. Pei designed the three courts with limited exits – including main exits that lead to Palm Court – hoping to bring students together in their focused traffic flow. The dorm rooms also cracked top 100 buildings in the United States as voted by the public, ranked at number 83. After the renovations done in Pei third court last year, there is plenty of excitement for the future of the dorm rooms.

“I’m extremely excited about all the renovations we did this summer in Pei III and cannot wait to move forward with renovating the rest of the community over the next few years,” Mark Stier, the Associate Dean of Student Life, said. “We will continue to work on renovations of the Pei community,” he continued. “Our hope is that next summer we will explore some additional external renovations similar to Pei III.”

“Besides the renovations, I would like to see more permanent common areas developed in Pei I,” Stier said. Pei’s first court is the only court of the three without a communal lounge, and apparently the community has suffered because of it.

“The first court community is basically a smile or a nod when you walk by another community member,” first-year environmental science aoc and first court resident Adrian Lemos said. “Some people know each other from their classes but for the most part everyone stays in their respective rooms.”

“The first court rooms are essentially the slums of Pei, and rumor has it that the mold – which does very much exist in plain view in the rooms – is painted over and not removed at all,” Lemos said. “I’ve encountered personally during the warmer months that my walls become damp and appear to be sweating.”

“Overall, the rooms feel dirty no matter how much you clean,” Lemos continued about first court. “It’s housing, but shitty housing at that.” Unlike Pei’s first court, second court has a communal lounge, and the community has flourished.

“One thing second court has going for it is community,” first-year physics aoc and second court resident Sarah Cohen said. “Dos court most court.” However, the community isn’t the only factor when considering the state of the dorm rooms and second court was not without its share of complaints.

“More lighting at night would definitely be appreciated,” Cohen said. “It’s often really nice outside after dark, but we just can’t see!” In addition to the court’s lack of lighting, the individual dorm rooms are not without fault either.

“My roof leaks whenever it rains and I came back from winter break to a hole in my ceiling,” Cohen continued. “I still have no idea what happened.” Despite these complaints, Cohen admires the aesthetic of the Pei courts.

“I really appreciated the look of the courts in the old footage of New College,” Cohen said. “But we’ve removed a lot of the communal spaces and replaced it with gravel of which I’m not really a fan.” Not everybody likes the look of the courts, however.

“I think the cube-shaped buildings are very ugly,” first-year and third court resident Paul Loriston said. “I think there should be artwork on them. That’d be cool.” Despite his dislike of the Pei courts’ aesthetic, Loriston had very few complaints about the newly renovated community.

“I like third court as a whole, the sense of quiet community has been really great in my experience,” Loriston said. “The only complaint I have would be the installation of the sun shade tarp,” he continued. “I think they should’ve used that money toward rebuilding the pergola, which I have heard great things about.”

Regardless of what anybody thinks of the Pei courts, whether it be the admiration of the general public or the disdain of the student residents, after half a century they continue to stand and look to see more and more improvements through the years.

Pei’s newly renovated third court turns 50 this year, along with the other Pei courts.


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