The Shape of Grinnell’s Campus

Friday, Jan. 17, 2014 5:10 pm

Loggias are as much a part of the Grinnell College experience as an architectural feature can be. They’re one of the first things people who arrive on campus ask about.

“What are those . . . things?” they say. Grinnellians will respond, “You mean the loggia?” and take a moment to help them pronounce it (ˈlow juh). Once they’ve got that down, the conversation continues:  “A loggia is like an outdoor hallway. There’s one attached to each of the three dorm clusters.”

Grinnellians can expound on the subtle differences among loggia. The North Campus’ loggia is a true loggia, attached to the building but not enclosed, like the kind you would see at Cambridge or in Florence. South Campus’ are enclosed — a benefit in winter. The South Campus dorms once housed only women, and the loggia entrances were locked at night to prevent men from visiting after hours. The East Campus loggia is a variation on a loggia because it isn’t attached for the full length of the buildings. It’s newer, like the dorms it’s connected to, with articulating glass and metal panels that can be closed in winter and opened when it’s warmer.

Posters adorning the loggias tell of concerts, parties, and lectures, from discussions of Putin’s Russia to efforts to end world hunger. They hang on the walls and pillars over dozens of bicycles.

Photos of the loggias often grace the covers of official campus publications and are a recognizable symbol of Grinnell for many.

But how many colleges have a landmark with an astronomical oddity? Much as the equinox sends a slithering snake up the side of the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza in Mexico, the vernal equinox allows campus walkers to see the sun rise directly to the east through the Rose Hall arch on East Campus and the Rawson/Gates Tower arch on North Campus.

Loggias are not just a pleasantly peculiar architectural feature. They are part of the fabric of student life.

The strange pride that Grinnellians have in these architectural oddities isn’t false or ironic — it’s authentic — because the loggias shape Grinnell’s culture as much as its campus.