We are past the day, if ever it dawned, when humanity could speak with one voice as to what is beautiful and what grotesque. Yet it seems possible we are capable of coming to a rough consensus whether something is, on the whole, closer to one pole or the other. To test this hypothesis, I offer for public determination the aesthetic status of the new Katz Building, which will be the architectural expression of the Penn State Dickinson School of Law on the University Park Campus of Penn State University (pictured above).
I stipulate the administration’s great efforts to bring this building to fruition and the continuing value the building will confer on PSULaw. I anticipate the thing will be a functional marvel. At issue here is purely outward aesthetics (such a judgment on the innards of the building awaits the day they are experienced).
It seems PSULaw professors will be hard pressed to be objective. They may regard the Katz building, whatever its appearance, as the thing that will emancipate them from the cinder-block mausoleum where their offices are currently housed, and from storm-lashed travel between classrooms in PSULaw's extant multi-building campus, and so find it beautiful.
Those of us who are PSULaw students may have our own trouble with objectivity, seeing the Katz building as responsible for the upward revision of at least one left-side decimal place holder on our student loan statements.
Still, the profession of law frequently requires objectivity; we are all capable, with a conscious effort, to bring it to the present question.
Third party judgments are of course both welcome and sought-after.
I will not come right out and state my aesthetic judgment on the building. Rather, I offer this observation that conveys my conclusion through implication: just as one can only run 1.5 miles into a 3-mile thick patch of woods before one in fact starts to run out of it, so, it seems, a thing can only become so ugly before it begins, progressing in the same direction, to become by degrees first ‘endearing’ then ‘interesting’ and, finally, beautiful.
There is this consolation to those in the PSULaw community who feel strongly that the building is unlovely. Find comfort in the fact that you soon will be going inside the building everyday, and in so doing will be making incidental use of Guy de Maupassant’s coping mechanism for dealing with unsightliness. Guy de Maupassant was a Parisian writer of the late 19th century. Unreconciled to the appearance of the new and omnipresent Eiffel Tower, Maupassant had lunch at the base of the structure nearly everyday. He had lunch there not for the quality of the food, but because it was the only place in Paris from which M. Eiffel’s offensive spawn couldn’t be seen.
Similarly, and even more in keeping with Maupassant's inspiration: for Katz-detractors in its line of sight but outside the PSULaw community, I note the Katz building will have a cafe.
Finally, and not as an indictment of the structure’s appearance, it seems worth noting that there is a non-negligible danger that an occasional plane intended for the University Park airport will land beside either end of the Katz building and attempt to off-load passengers.