Spires and Gargoyles — Hogwarts


A message from the chairman:

There is a moment on every campus tour when someone looks up at Holder Tower cutting the sky in two and whispers to their neighbor, “Wow, this place is just like Hogwarts.” And somewhere between the spires and gargoyles and Cannon throwing a foam party in the middle of the meningitis outbreak, it is.

But the magic is more than just skin deep. While defensive charms protected Hogwarts from Voldemort and his Death Eaters, Princeton has an orange bubble that protects it too—only the enemy is the real world and people without privilege. So what if Emma Watson went to Brown? We’ve got the guy who played the title character in the live-action Ben 10 movie and he’s in SAE. And instead of Dumbledore’s Deluminator, the magical device that removes light from nearby lamps, members of the wrestling team climb lampposts and headbutt them until they go out. Just like Hogwarts!

And then there are the residential colleges, which are sort of like Hogwarts houses, only even better at fostering community and personal development, and unequivocal triumphs. Though only Rocky, Mathey, and Whitman properly look like castles, Wilson and its unique grime and salmon-vomit brick is perhaps the most magical because it wears an invisibility cloak in Princeton’s admissions materials. Of the 1,320 photos on Princeton’s Instagram account, a brave four provide out-of-focus glimpses at the coyest residential college—about on par with Princeton’s acceptance rate. A solitary image of shoebox Dodge-Osborn stains a Google Image search for Wilson, the rest of the page populated with soaring gothic stonework and buildings without poorly executed, concrete brise-soleil screens.

But to hide Wilson under a metaphorical invisibility cloak is a mistake. Parts of Princeton are not going to look or feel like they did in viewbook fantasies (anyone involved in a Prospect Garden hookup can attest), and that’s fine. There’s still a dumb, half-winking charm in the geometric rigidity of Wilson’s rectangular ivy, a spell in the egregious insect infestation, a soul trapped in one of the inexplicable, interlocking orange-teal runes installed beneath every window. The castle did not make Hogwarts magical; Hogwarts did. Wilson College is strange, compromising architecture that is at times ugly and at all times not a castle, but it is Princeton. Reality will inconveniently take the place of color-corrected crenellations, and imperfections are still part of Princeton and life, but that doesn’t take away from the magic of it all.

Welcome to Hogwarts.

Swish and flick,
AJS ’15

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