I had to come to Fisher Fine Arts to write about it. I had to sit under the quotes from Shakespeare that line the Victorian windows of the main reading room; I had to look at the studded brass decals on the staircase; I had to enjoy the quietude that has led the girl next to me to zip her bag so slowly it doesn’t make a noise.
Designed by the renowned Frank Furness in the 1880s and officially dedicated in 1891, FFA was originally the University’s main library. Its design was revolutionary for its time, with a large reading room as the building’s centerpiece. Furness molds but mostly defies the boundaries of architectural styles: the building might be called neo–Gothic or Victorian, but mostly it looks like a cavernous red giant. Depending on your direction of approach, it might look like a French Cathedral, a British fortress, or a greenhouse.
In FFA, there is a sense of history and magnificence for the architecture nerd, but there is also a sense of quiet and an absence of the bureaucracy that characterizes Penn’s other buildings and libraries, which I know appeals to the guy across from me who just wants to quietly pore over organic chemistry notes. FFA transcends eras: as I type on a Macbook with headphones in, I can also imagine pulling out a fountain pen and an old textbook.