July 6, 2010

Relentless Symmetry

The Albany campus of the State University of New York features an "academic podium" of 13 buildings on a common platform, all connected by a continuous roof and long colonnades.

Designed by Edward Durrell Stone and completed in the mid-1960s, this carefully arranged collection of structures can itself be considered a mathematical artwork, built on precise, repeating relationships among the various elements.

The campus complex is striking—and bewildering. In brilliant sunlight, its glaring whiteness and relentless symmetry make it difficult for visitors to navigate from place to place.

Over the years, the addition of signs, landscaping, sculptures, and other features to break the symmetry has made navigation somewhat easier, but getting from place to place within the complex can still be a daunting prospect.

And then there's the wind. The alignment of the long axis of the academic podium with prevailing westerly winds can make walking along the tunnel-like corridors a less-than-pleasant experience, especially in winter.


Peterson, I. 2001. Fragments of Infinity: A Kaleidoscope of Art and Math. Wiley.

Photos by I. Peterson

1 comment:

Albany Area Math Circle said...

We agree that the UAlbany campus is a visually spectacular example of mathematical symmetry, which is one reason we thought it would make a great host site for the New York State Math League (NYSML) state championship math meet this year. We also agree that all that symmetry can make it easy to get lost, so we were fortunate to have a small army of volunteer UAlbany students and community members help us out as guides.