I keep coming back to the view of Commons as you approach it from Wall Street, passing Woodbridge Hall. That grand plaza, those columns, those names of WW 1 battles carved above the columns. It seems to be saying there is history and tradition here and please don’t forget it. And then, right next to it, the Beinecke library looking like a visitor from the future that happened to drop by. I’ve taken friends and visitors into both Beinecke and Commons because the insides of both are so striking and so grand. The buildings just seemed to give me the message: you’re here in a place of impressive excellence, be thankful! And though I haven’t been inside Commons for some years now I’m sure going to miss what it was.
– Sam Mink
On the walk from Old Campus to University Commons, where we ate freshman year, we passed through a plaza that was home to the Beinecke Rare Book Library. Almost all of Yale was built many years ago and is very beautiful. Stone buildings look and feel like they could survive forever and provide protection whenever called upon. New buildings, like Morse and Stiles Colleges or Medical Center buildings, are well separated by distance and other parts of New Haven. Beinecke is of modern design, sits right in the middle, and just does not fit. Looking back, I realize it really did bother me every time I saw it. It made me uncomfortable, like there was a violation. I avoided that courtyard whenever I could.
– Matt Epstein
Is there anything more magnificent than the War Memorial outside Commons or the names of those who fell in combat inside the entrance to Woolsey? It’s a grim reminder of a different kind of Yalie. How long until political correctness requires that the names of the Confederate soldiers get chiseled off the walls?
– Terry Jackson
For a different view that not many have seen, climb to the top of the back side of Calhoun (or whatever it is called these days) that looks out on Beineke, the library and Berkeley College. Eddie Wright and I shared what was then an L shaped double on the 6th floor, and we had access to the tower on the roof. From there you can actually see the miniature castle on the top of the library.
– Terry Jackson
From the day in 1969 that Claes Oldenburg’s Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks first appeared in Beinecke Plaza it was magnificently outrageous. With its bright-red plastic inflatable tip that has since been replaced by a rigid metal one, it was both confrontational and sexy, both feminine and phallic. Like a lightning rod, the Lipstick drew angry crowds protesting culture wars and armed conflicts. Protest leaders couldn’t help but jump upon its tank treads to bark revolution through megaphones. Yet … it made one smile during those demonstrations. It’s now in a quieter venue, the Morse courtyard, retired from battle, but also unable to temper the crowd’s passion with its irony.
– Ben Slotznick
The most impactful place for me was Beinecke Plaza facing the Freshman Commons, as I approached the Commons Building itself. Every day when I walked across that plaza, with Beinecke Library on the left and the massive Commons building in front of me, I would read the names of those seven battlefields engraved in stone across the building facade. That huge monument to the Great War that didn’t end all wars after all, and to the lives of all those Yale men whose names were engraved on the walls inside. I had read most of those names many times, thought about their sacrifice as I thought about the lives being wasted in Vietnam as I walked along, and memorized those battlefield names as a determined tribute to the soldiers on both sides and a lasting recognition of the ignorance of governments.
– Carl Eifler