The Most Amazing College Campus Buildings

The Most Amazing College Campus Buildings

Quick, when you think of amazing buildings, what image comes to mind? Is it anything like one of the Most Amazing Campus Buildings assembled here? We are betting that at least a few of our Top 25 entries matched your mental picture.

Our collection of impressive buildings, though, has one major difference you may not have thought of: the grandiosity of these structures is justified. Their excesses, even when they involve hundreds of millions of dollars, are necessary and well worth it!

To qualify as an amazing campus building, we settled on four categories or criteria: (1) cost; (2) size (including the size or rarity of the collections housed in the building or complex); (3) architectural elements, including the fame of the architect, the style or importance of the architecture, or the materials and decorations used; and (4) amenities and innovative features.

Students evaluate a college or university based on many factors that go far beyond the strength of faculty or programs offered. Are you interested in studying music or drama? A school that has a highly visible and acoustically superb space dedicated to the performing arts will almost certainly make the top of your list.

Many students are able to attend top tier universities because of sports scholarships. Doesn’t it make sense, then, that a school would offer these students state-of-the-art training facilities and magnificent stadiums that can accommodate tens of thousands of fans in style?

The amazing campus buildings and structures that follow enhance student life and the college experience as a whole.

1 Texas A & M University-College Station (TAMU), Kyle Field

The most expensive and amazing building on our list may actually be the most necessary. Yes, Texas A&M University (TAMU) did spend almost $485 million in 2015 to get a bigger football stadium than their state and conference (SEC) rivals. However, the renovations to Kyle Field (the stadium that Johnny Manziel/ Johnny Football built) are much more than just a chest-thumping exercise. In addition to a better fan experience (did we mention double the number of women’s restrooms?) and increased seating capacity to capitalize on surging attendance, the increased noise levels at the Hate Barn ensure a more intimidating place for opposing teams.

Securing the Aggies’ future success is because its most recent triumphs have finally allowed it to financially supplement TAMU’s other sports teams---so the university no longer has to. In fact, the athletics department is now doing well enough to contribute to, and raise money for, the university, all because of the football team. And, hey, it’s not like they spent the $485 million on the arts or something.

2 Yale University, Stephen A. Schwarzman Center

Spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the arts is exactly what Yale is planning to do, which has generated both praise. In fact, when Yale announced that Stephen A. Schwarzman,head of the Blackstone Group, was making a $150-million donation for a third arts center, some immediately questioned it as an amazing project. Others, however, realized the new Schwarzman Center would address two vital needs.

First, it will be a central student hub---something which the students have been asking for. Second, it will be an arts, cultural, and events center that furthers Yale as a tourist attraction. This will bring additional visitors to its other iconic buildings (including Durfee Hall, where Rory Gilmore and Paris Geller lived during the fourth season of the Gilmore Girls) and thereby help the struggling city of New Haven, which depends heavily on Yale as an attraction and employer.

3 The New School, University Center

While New York City and Manhattan will likely never depend on one building or employer, it does have something in common with a small city like New Haven. This expensive metropolis does get upset when it doesn’t like the plans for an amazing new building. That was the case when The New School---a private, non-profit research university whose trustees and leaders have had ties to some of the biggest names in American politics (incl. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain)---proposed its new University Center. In fact, the proposal not only angered area residents, it even formed part of student protests.

Thankfully, The New School listened and adjusted its plans. The result is a 375,000-square-foot, LEED-Gold-certified, active-design University Center that encompasses classrooms, a faculty resource center, a library, student housing, an auditorium, student lounges, dining areas, retail space, and more. When you realize that it’s almost an entire campus in one building, in an expensive area of NYC, and then Mayor Michael Bloomberg lauded it as an example for local architects, it becomes clear just how reasonable and justifiable this extravagance is.

4 University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Michigan Stadium.

Another large-scale project that generated was the $226-million renovation of the University of Michigan’s (U-M’s) Michigan Stadium. 

Thankfully, things were eventually resolved and the renovation was completed in 2011 with much-needed upgrades and a few luxury touches that have helped secure the stadium’s longer-term future and helped it garner a number of national events. While it may still seem like an unnecessary extravagance to some, consider that U-M’s athletic department regularly ranks in the Top 5 nationally for annual revenues, with the majority of that coming from its highly profitable football program. In other words, without the ongoing success of the football Wolverines, the athletics department would cost the university a lot of money. (This is also why U-M spent some $40 million to pry Jim Harbaugh away from the NFL.)

5 California State University---Northridge, Valley Performing Arts Center

It may seem like amazing college football stadiums are all in the Heartland, while the lavish arts centers dot the East and West coasts, but this is not always the case... well, after this entry it is not the case.

Completed in 2011 at a cost of $125 million, the state-of-the-art, LEED-Gold-certified, 166,000-square-foot Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) at California State University-Northridge (CSUN) is the centerpiece of the university and cultural hub of the San Fernando Valley. Built at the height of the recession, VPAC had been in planning for a decade prior---the region needed an arts facility and CSUN wanted to further its connection to the community. Unlike projects at some other universities, this one had both public support and community funding. People in the Valley recognize CSUN’s key economic role and knew creating a world-class facility would draw major attention (opening night performers and attendees included Harrison Ford, Calista Flockhart, Andy Garcia, and Beau Bridges).