"The metal double doors click open. I step into 116B Lewisohn Hall, down the main aisle, where rows of desks are housed in an entirely white room: white-painted exposed brick walls, white plaster ceilings, and white linoleum floors. Inside, students and a professor critique one student’s architectural model. Huddled together, they squint, furrow their brows, and tilt their heads to the left and to the right. The way they all lean into the discussion draws me in and makes me want to join.
“The desk,” Professor Karen Fairbanks, chair of Barnard and Columbia’s Architecture Department, explains to me in a later interview, “is the beginning of our relationship with our students.” Having taught at Columbia and Barnard for over 21 years, Fairbanks has watched and worked with hundreds of students who, hunched over their desk spaces, toil over models and develop their minds as architects."
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