By: Clark Adomaitis
Photos By: Clark Adomaitis
I sat on the third floor balcony of the Great Hall on the early afternoons of a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. No events occurred, only students relaxing. I recorded and reviewed the sights, sounds, and smells.
Thursday, September 27, 1:30 P.M.
My mood instantly goes calm because of the serenity in this space. The gentle yellow light of early afternoon illuminate the pillars and the wide floor brightly. The hanging lights from the ceiling and the lamps close to the floor are all lit despite the time of day. The lighting added to the brilliant, majestic beauty of the Hall.
Eight students sit on the balcony and three people sit on the floor of the Hall. All stay completely still, relaxed and quiet, some on their phones, some listening to music.
The massive mural entitled “The Graduate” by Edwin Blashfield dominates the room and seems to be illuminated. The center of it has much more yellow and bright color than the rest of the painting. An American flag hangs directly above the center of the mural.
Every event that has ever occurred has been visually backgrounded by this mural. A graduate in a large brown cloak is walking down a flight of steps confidently. The graduate is not facing the woman talking to him, he is only looking back over his shoulder. All of the other thirty five people in the mural, who are considered to be people of thought, such as scholars and philosophers, are paying close attention to the graduate. The drastic differences of light and dark in the painting makes the graduate, who is in the center of the mural, seem awesome.
The design of the stained glass along the length of the Hall consists of a criss-cross diamond pattern for the majority of the height of the window. Only at the bottom and the top of does the pattern have more intricate, but gently colored patterns.
Monday, October 1, 1:45 P.M.
Sky is bright but partly sunny. Light coming from stained glass windows is dim and pale, but still yellow. The high ceiling lights are on. The floor lights are off, the hanging lights are off.
On the floor of the Hall, CCNY facilities workers are arranging tables. “Hey, we’re missing a table over here!” one shouts. There are six rows of ten to twelve tables, each with two chairs at them. The tables make aisles. This arrangement seems to be a conducive and spacious environment for a student to look on either side of them and be surrounded by clubs or organizations. The Career and Professional Development Institute will host their Fall Career Fair with this setup soon. Tipico Night, Freshman Summer Orientation, Club Fairs, Freshman Convocation, and Career Fairs are all events I have attended in the Great Hall.
Three people sit upon this third floor balcony silently with me.
The sounds I hear include the echo of chairs and tables being dragged, elevator dings, and some quiet employee’s sneaker squeaks. A phone ringing on the floor echoes to the ceiling easily because of the grand, open space. No obstacles affect the ring. When one person talks, the audio is always muffled and hard to understand because of the ease of echo. However, I can hear the timbre and tones of voice that people use: conversational, urgent, calling. “Hey Gabe, did you bring… (inaudible).” Percussive sounds like carts rolling and keys jingling echo loudly as well. In the Hall, a low level of various noises that echo through adjacent corridors and bounce their way into the Hall stays ever present.
The Hall is a gentle old, a tad musty and dusty, but not unpleasant, unclean, or unsanitary. It is classic, antique, grand, majestic. The fourteen huge pillars that line the Hall could fit 225 men in them.
On either side of the Great Hall, an exit door leads to a staircase which leads up the side of Shepard Hall. The staircases are dirty, seldom used, and covered in graffiti. Amongst the staircases are abandoned passageways and roof access doors littered with coffee cups, deli sandwich wraps, burnt cigarettes, cigar wraps, Arizona iced tea cans, pillows, and condoms.
Despite the paraphernalia, the majestic, expansive views from the small windows above the Great Hall and from the roof of Shepard Hall inspire hope.
Back in the Hall, twelve flags hang from the ceiling, six on the either side. Five of the flags on both sides seem to match in theme, color, and variations of a similar pattern, but have different designs, leaving an asymmetrically designed ceiling. One flag with yellow, green, red, and lavender rectangles reminds me of the Lithuanian flag and the LGBTQ+ flag. A pink and purple flag has “1847” on it, the year CCNY was founded. One flag has the CCNY emblem on it. The emblem is a three faced figure.
The center of “The Graduate” is dim. Usually the mural is lit up a rich yellow.
On the floor of the Hall, many old American universities have colorful stained glass windows with their emblem and their names written in Latin. Among the universities include Dartmouth, Chicago, Bowdoin, Stevens, Michigan, Wesleyan, Hamilton, Cornell, UMass Amherst, Syracuse, Columbia, Rochester, USMA, Harvard, USNA, MIT, Yale, Lafayette, Princeton, John Hopkins, Colgate, NYU, Stanford, Oberlin, Virginia, Concord, California, and Rutgers.
Tuesday, October 9, 12:25 P.M.
Nine people sitting here mostly work on laptops. One of them I recognize from a previous day. A tad more volume than usual emanates from our voices. I can hear small, quiet talking on the opposite side of the balcony, about forty feet away, easily.
The overcast sky results in a much paler yellow light coming from the window. Some chairs and tables are askew from Thursday’s event.
Echoey noises from the distance are gentle and comforting. I hear a janitor taking out a trash bag and replacing it. I hear the gentle echoed hum of air, which implies there must be a fan somewhere. My sneeze and sniffle echoes dangerously, I do not want to disturb the quiet people around me, I have a little bit of a cold and sore throat, partially because of autumn.
Wednesday, October 17
A calm Hall. The majestic height of it astounds me and tranquilizes me every time I experience it. The sun comes from the left side of the Great Hall, which is facing south. In New York City at midday, since we are in the northern hemisphere and the date is after the autumnal equinox, the sun, while still rising in the East and setting in the West, will always be in the southern half of the sky. Therefore, the right side of the Hall outside is in the shadows. The light coming from the right side’s stained glass is a dim, dark, gray light. The two opposite colors coming from each side gives the Hall a spooky, Halloween-feeling. When a cloud covers the sun, the light in the Hall changes massively and darkness envelopes everything.
Three people on the floor admire the mural and the architecture of the Hall, as if it were a museum.
The temperature is a bit cold.
On the floor, two sets of forty rows of thirteen chairs are set up to seat about 520 people with an aisle in the middle.
Nine people sit on this balcony with me. They use their phones and laptops. A girl and boy laugh and mutter quiet and flirty. Someone sits at the piano to dawdle for a few minutes. Audio echoes from the piano slowly, gently, lazily. Even though there might be changing weather outside and sickness in people’s sinuses, the twelve flags of the Hall remain still. More people join us on the balcony. Soon, there are sixteen people eating and talking here. The experience of relaxing in the Great Hall is not as pleasant when there are this many people.