The Storrs campus at the University at Connecticut has received unexpected recognition in the category of “Dark Academia,” a popular aesthetic trend celebrating gothic architecture, cold, rainy days and the intrigue and mystery of antiquated university life.
In a study of 100 college cities & towns conducted by travel booking platform Wanderu, Storrs, Connecticut ranks fifth in “Dark Academia Vibes.” Within the top five, UConn joins Princeton, Cornell and Harvard, an impressive array of universities on the chilly, overcast East Coast of the United States.
The overall rating takes into account classic Dark Academia factors like the number of bookstores, coffeeshops, average fall temperature (lower is better) and the number of rainy days per year (higher is better). The numbers of bookstores and coffee shops are counted per capita to make sure huge cities do not edge out smaller college towns such as that of UConn.
Areas of the Storrs campus around the Great Lawn are among those regarded as particular Dark Academia hotspots. The study’s corresponding article displays a picture of the UConn Family Studies Building and Manchester Hall, where the Department of Philosophy is located, as an example of the aesthetic on the Storrs Campus. Close by is the Wilbur Cross Building, whose North and South Reading Rooms, restored in 2018, invoke a “classic academic look.”
Dark Academia, which takes significant inspiration from the look and fashion of the universities of the 1930s and 1940s, might find no stronger home at UConn than Wilbur Cross, itself designed in 1939. The spacious reading rooms complete with chandeliers that we know today were augmented by stacks and stacks of books and reference materials, a relic of an era when the Wilbur Cross Building was UConn’s official library.
The “contributing institutional architecture belong to the University” underlying UConn’s 1988 registry on the National Register of Historic Places is built upon the styles of modern “Dark Academia,” including “Colonial Revival, Collegiate Gothic, and Neo-Classical Styles.” Dark Academia enthusiasts will particularly enjoy East Campus, as Holcomb, Sprague and Whitney Hall, all still dormitories to this day, are all listed among historic Collegiate Gothic architecture on campus.
Contrast these styles with the current Homer Babbidge Library, initially riddled with “embarrassing” structural issues and forced into redevelopment in the 1990s, and many of UConn’s newest science buildings, emblematic of modern styles, and it is clear that “Dark Academia” on campus will not be seeing any new developments any time soon.
The study comes at a time where interest in Collegiate Gothic architecture is at an all time high. Harvard and Princeton, the center of the arduous academic challenge of the Ivy Leagues and of the architecture inseparably tied to Dark Academia, and above UConn on the rating, have both inaugurated new buildings in the 21st century styled after some form of Gothic Revival.
Given the preliminary floor plans and artists’ conceptions of the new South Campus Residence Hall, featuring uniform rectangular architecture reminiscent of the Alumni Quadrangle or McMahon Residence Hall, it is unlikely that Dark Academia enthusiasts will have too much to cheer for going forward on the Storrs campus.
At least, as Wanderu Content Marketing Manager Bryn Culbert describes, they will still have its “moody, bookish, vibes,” its cofeeshops and its bookstores.