Duke celebrates 100 years of inconveniencing students with construction

For the last few months, keen-eyed students may have noticed minor construction around Abele Quad and the Chapel. In search of answers, Monday Monday interviewed Bark Tough, Duke’s landscape architect and lead bush coordinator, to get a sneak peek at what West Campus might look like soon.

MM: Describe what you do on campus. 

BT: I oversee the management of the implementation of design elements on campus to ensure they meet the rigorous equity and desirability standards. 

MM: Can you say it in English?

BT: I make sure the buildings and bushes look pretty. 

MM: What is the Centennial, exactly?

BT: This is a big deal for Duke — 100 years since James B. Duke established the Duke Endowment, the first instance of the time-honored Duke tradition of throwing money at our problems. We have come a long way since 1924, and we want to celebrate our progress as a University while also celebrating our storied, rich and only somewhat problematic past. 

MM: What is happening on Abele Quad?

BT: In preparation for the Centennial, we have converted West Campus into an immersive construction experience. The dirt, mulch, chasms and inconveniences all over campus transport students and visitors back to the true feeling of living on West Campus when it was first constructed in 1924. We think students will appreciate this authentic form of reminiscing.

MM: How else are you capturing the authenticity of 1924 Duke?

BT:  It’s been difficult. The 20s were a simpler time, back when disabled people didn’t exist. We’ve already made major strides toward replicating the original campus vision by gutting the Bryan Center and getting rid of the curb ramps on the Chapel circle. 

MM: Tell me more about the construction. Is there any plan for finishing it?

BT: At this time, our timeline remains undetermined. The “construction workers” are just Hoof ‘n’ Horn actors who didn’t make it into the 24-hour musical and were looking for a new sense of purpose. We gave them hard hats and told them to look busy, and they ran with it. 

MM: What was the impetus for this project?

BT: I believe Duke’s architecture should be an extension of our values, and those values are two-fold: spending money on things we do not need, and telling people in wheelchairs to go f–k themselves.

MM: How would you respond to criticisms that this project is not addressing the bigger infrastructural needs on campus, like mold in dorms and decrepit classroom spaces?

BT: I would not respond.

MM: What do you miss most about Duke in the Good Old Days?

BT: My favorite Duke tradition was when, instead of orientation week, first-years were given 24 hours to hide in Duke Forest, after which upperclassmen could hunt them for sport. It was the most terrifying but thrilling week of my life. It helped Duke keep freshmen numbers down.  Nowadays, that would be considered “hazing” or “murder.” 

MM: What else do students have to look forward to in the coming months as we brace ourselves for the Centennial?

BT: We are undergoing a number of other projects that students can look forward to, including a McDonalds-Home Depot-Sponsored James B. Duke projection onto the Chapel that sings to the carillon every day at 5 p.m., a countdown of the top 100 Richest Families at Duke and more.

Asked how much the endeavor was costing, Tough grinned, winked and said, “Let’s just say there’s a lot of zeroes involved.” 

Monday Monday spent the weekend embracing the Centennial spirit at Waynestock.


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