There’s an app for that: Brown Facades


You probably didn’t read about this app in the Herald last week, but here is BlogDailyHerald’s official endorsement of Professor Dietrich Neumann’s pet tech project. Way back in the fall in 2011, Neumann taught an undergraduate research seminar in which students collected information about our very own beloved (and in the case of SciLi, tolerated) Brown buildings. The app contains historical and architectural factoids about 131 buildings on campus, and this adorable map that has emoji-like images categorizing said buildings.

It is actually very exciting to be able to answer questions as ubiquitously asked as “Why is the SciLi so ugly?” Apparently, the building was designed in the “Brutalist” architectural style, popular in the 1960s and 70s. It’s just representative of yet another bad trend of decades past, like a picture of your mom and all her friends with ill-suited perms aplenty. Fun fact: the architects actually suggested building the library in pink marble, just so it’d be slightly cuter, but of course the corporation rejected the idea. Bureaucracy!!

Other aha moments:

The Ratty was named after one Henry Dexter Sharpe, class of 1894, who left the school a ton of money when he died in 1954. Students changed the name from “refectory” to “rat-factory,” which was eventually shortened to “Ratty.” And that just stuck. We have all tacitly agreed to call the University’s largest eatery a “rat-factory” forever. And everyone’s fine with it.

The tablet near the entrance of the Van Wickle Gates quotes Cicero in Latin; the statement roughly translates as, “These studies fortify one’s youth, delight one’s old age; amid success they are an ornament, in failure they are a refuge and a comfort.” This basically means: Screw it, even if I make no money, my education will keep me warm! And if I’m mad rich I can keep a nice diploma on my mantelpiece. That is sort of a nice send-off at Commencement, if you think about it.

My only critique of the app: do not click the sound button. Having experimented with the app when exhausted on a super wild Friday night, my roommate and I can only describe the voice that reads the descriptions as a shrill and aggressive robot. It is also weirdly hard to get her to shut up! You can’t hit the sound button again OR exit out of the app – you have to hit “back.” It’s very jarring to re-open the app to find that ‘she’ is still yelling at you.

Other than that, two thumbs up for an app made for Brown students by Brown students. Download Brown Facades from the app store now.

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