Th e campus of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst—founded 150 years ago—has all too often been summed up with a simple word: ugly. At least one online source awarded it the dubious distinction of being the second ugliest campus in the nation, behind only Drexel University in Philadelphia.
In a state filled with manicured campuses of picturesque red-brick dormitories and gothic classrooms, the architecture of our flagship public university is another thing entirely. Colossal concrete slabs, dark subterranean spaces, vertical dormitories—these are the images in the minds of all too many prospective students and alumni. And the criticisms aren’t new: In 1974 the Globe’s longtime architecture critic, Robert Campbell, called it “a jumble of unrelated personal monuments that looks more like a world fairgrounds than a campus.”