A group of architecture aficionados has been raising vocal alarm about a sinister movement that in recent years has stealthily crept into the most hallowed spaces on Swarthmore’s campus. Known in certain circles as “Cornellification,” this is the campaign by which the sleek, stylish, modern interior design seen in Cornell Library has become more commonplace on campus, proliferating in areas in which it seemingly does not belong. In opposition to this movement, determined supporters of traditional architecture have recently protested publicly by extrajudicially replacing the front door of Cornell with an old-fashioned wooden door.
Cornell Library is the genesis and enduring standard bearer of the modern design movement. The Cornell-style design features bright white lighting, firm seating cushions, poly mesh textiles, and a mainly grey color palette accentuated by occasional neon green or orange. Over the last few years, this design language has taken over half of McCabe 2nd, a good part of McCabe 1st, Danawell, Singer Hall, Whittier Hall, and more. Alarmists warn that at current growth rates the campus will be completely Cornellified by 2037. The still-under-construction dining and community commons building will be but the newest battleground in this long war of attrition for aesthetic domination.
Losing more and more ground every year to the seemingly unstoppable march of Cornellification, many reactionary proponents of traditionalist architecture have all but given up the fight, retreating to their dwindling strongholds in the dingiest corners of McCabe and Worth. But a recent unexpected offensive from the anti-Cornellification traditionalists has opened up a new front in the design war and has reinvigorated the opposition to modernisation. Under cover of darkness in the early morning of Tuesday, September 14, clandestine traditionalists disabled the sleek automated front door of Cornell Library and replaced it with a nondescript wooden door bearing the emblem of a horse and buggy.
In this stunning direct action, the resistance brought traditionalism to the very center of the Cornell imperial metropole. Rather than staying in their cabins in rural Montana, these burgeoning Kaczynskites came right to the center of modern Swarthmore life to spread their word. Their message was heard loud and clear: modernization may seem inevitable, but traditional design will never truly be eliminated. It is a yearning for the days of yore when Swarthmore was but a small town, a far cry from the bustling metropolis it is today.
The wooden door typifies this yearning, its elegance and grace recalling a gentler time before the harsh efficiency of modern aesthetics took over. Though the supple nine-paned glass window of the wooden door offers a tasteful view into the interior of the library, the door is for the most part composed of opaque mahogany which modestly conceals the view to outsiders. This is in stark contrast to the fully bared view of the library that the previous door revealed, a cold glass monument to the impossibility of privacy in the fully globalized and surveilled world for which Cornell’s furnishings were designed.
In Icarian irony, it was the very modernity of the once reigning glass door that led to its failure and dramatic supplantation by the wooden door. The hulking Cornell door, in all its technological advancement, was susceptible to the same weaknesses that may befall any technology at any time. When the door’s sophisticated circuitry gave out and it was taken off its hinges to be repaired, the wooden door seized its throne. A wooden door cannot malfunction. It does not need firmware updates. It does not require you to utilize Duo authentication, G.E.T. reservation, or any other app. It is just a door. The door will soon be replaced, but in the meantime, the analog wooden door stands as a testament to a time when interior design was comforting rather than harsh, welcoming rather than standoffish.