James G. McCulloh ’56 *65

I was glad to see Anne Rogers Leslie ’78’s thoughtful and moving response to the horror of the new Art Museum. As a graduate of the School of Architecture I have looked on through the years with pride and despair as Princeton has alternately built well and badly. Now retired and living in Palmer Square, I regularly walk the campus and I have watched the handsome venetian gothic McCormick Hall come down and the new museum rise to take its place.

The building’s footprint is large and I have doubted the wisdom of squeezing it into a context including such handsome and carefully-crafted masonry buildings as Prospect, McCosh, the Chapel, Whig, Nassau Hall, Clio, Edwards and the collegiate gothic glories that run from Holder to Pyne. But lacking a better location, I have held my tongue.

That changed when the first dull-gray, ribbed-precast concrete curtain wall panels went up just days before Reunions last May. In the two months that followed I wrote (twice each) to museum director James Steward and President Chris Eisgruber ’83 begging them to reconsider. They thanked me for sharing.

This is what I said to Chris, that polished granite, slate, bronze, black glass or some other material associated with richness would be more appropriate for the museum than concrete warehouse construction, that what Princeton was forcing into the middle of its historic campus, in a location that made it impossible to ignore, surrounded by beautifully-crafted masonry buildings, was a linear one-half mile of dull gray shower curtain-liner, and that anyone who thought that this was a good idea should probably not be working at Princeton.

A good deal of what Princeton has built in the 10 years since I returned could generously be described as mediocre. The concept governing the design of the South Campus appears to be suburban sprawl, which is unfortunate as the glory of the Princeton campus is as much determined by the spaces between the buildings as by the buildings themselves. Our home is in the hands of the wrong people. It would not be a mistake for the trustees to look into this.

James G. McCulloh ’56 *65
Princeton, N.J.