Constructing the Castle: the Elements
Tucked away on the fourth floor of Tower A of Usen Castle, a small room bursts with color. The colloquially known “Graffiti Room” is exactly as it sounds. The walls, floors, ceilings and even windows are covered with bright murals and words. Perhaps most powerful are the quotations detailing the thoughts and stories of the Brandeis community. Words of love, loss and hope cover the walls. The room is rarely occupied. Many students consider this a place for quiet reflection and free expression.
When construction began on Usen Castle, Middlesex College founder John Hall Smith was budget-conscious. Most laborers were hired from the Waltham area, which helped the local economy to some extent. Windows and construction materials were brought in from demolition sites in the area and repurposed for use in the Castle. The Castle walls are made of poured concrete. Workers would place rocks inside of the wall molds, and once the concrete was poured, it was scraped to reveal the rocks underneath. Additional stones were added to the wet cement to give the Castle its unique exterior. However, over time, the concrete has caused problems for the castle. Water damage often occurs, and the outdated heating system only exacerbated this issue. In 1995, a new heat system was added. It includes unsightly pipes that line many ceilings in the Castle. The heat system isn’t the only overall change that has been made to the Castle. In 1980, the original arched windows of the castle were blocked and replaced with rectangular windows.
Perhaps one of the favorite rooms in Usen Castle is the massive Castle Commons. Located on the second floor of Tower D, Castle Commons features a large fireplace and kitchen. Though some clubs reserve the room for their own use, Castle Commons still serves as the primary common area for the residents of Usen Castle. Tower D was the first part of the Castle to be built and was originally purposed as Middlesex College’s anatomical building. It hosted the physiology lab. When Brandeis University took possession of the Castle, Tower D was transformed into the common area students still enjoy today.
Fondly known as Chum’s, Cholmondeley’s Coffee House sits in the first floor of Tower B in Usen Castle. The space was originally occupied by medical lecture halls in Middlesex College and then changed into an athletic rumpus room by Brandeis University. However, the purpose of the space evolved over time to become the coffee house students enjoy today. According to the Brandeis website, the space is named for the bloodhound of a former campus photographer. The space can be rented by students, though most weekends there are events taking place. From open mic nights to poetry slams and concerts, the space acts as host to a variety of events. There’s also food: milkshakes, fries, pancakes, coffee and grilled cheese are all available.