Let’s Warm up the Cooler with a Steamy Finnish Sauna


Author: Richie DeMaria

The Cooler is one of the most beautiful college buildings in America. According to architecture, design and urban planning Web site Structurehub, Occidental, including that pristine barn that is the Cooler, ranks alongside the storied halls of Harvard and the red-tiled roofs of Stanford as one of the best and most beautiful examples of American collegiate architecture. The writers did not mention it specifically, but as the Samuelson Pavilion shows up on the aerial photo, we can assume they included its stunning interior as evidence of Oxy’s architectural splendor. And we have to wonder why.

With no offense meant to the Cooler cooks or the students or entertainers who use it, the Cooler has never struck me as a very beautiful building. If it’s what’s inside that counts, as that old adage about inner beauty goes, then, well, eek. Its discomfortingly roomy, the walls- awareness-raising displays aside-are sadly bare, and the overall feel is reminiscent of a storage space or salmon smokehouse.

So perhaps we can interpret Structurehub’s award as, like the Nobel Peace Prize supposedly is, an aspirational one, and think of ways how we might make the Pavilion’s inside as nice as its outside.

We could do this by bringing the outside in. Imagine: a Cooler with a kinetic fountain in the middle, adorned with white columns. Currently our Cooler sticks out like a sore paw, but with a little work, the wood-covered student hangout could resemble the attractive, vaguely Roman/Spanish look that earned Oxy its recent Structurehub award.

Maybe that would require too dramatic a renovation. Instead, why not make like an augmentation mammoplastician and exaggerate what’s already there?

We could turn it into a timber lodge. We’ve already got the wood panels and spacious interiors, so why not take it one step further? Imagine mounted moose heads with commemorative plaques – “Felled by Glee Club ’77” – and prize trout, bearskin rugs and kitschy tomahawks.

The Cooler displays would rotate, as always, but with stereotype-affirming paintings of lumberjacks and cowboys for Masculinities Week and one of those cheesy galactic sea life orgy murals (you know, with every orca and dolphin and seahorse swimming in an Alaskan sea beneath three Saturns) for that week’s Third World crisis. Such a lodge would provide students with a rustic retreat to escape the fast pace of city life, and make our large Pacific Northwestern population feel at home.

Or how about a sauna? As it is, the Cooler lives up to its name by being, temperature-wise, one of the most consistently cold places on campus. Since it looks more like a Finnish hothouse than a refrigerator, why not convert it into a steamy place to unwind and sweat out your stress? This way, we would no longer need the strenuous exercise of Cooler dances required to coat the room with bodily slime, and could find comfort in each other’s perspiration year round. Football fans could emulate the exertion of their favorite games without moving a muscle and dieters could eat as many slices of pizza as they want, guilt-free.

While not much of a cosmetic change, this idea would at least, through relaxation, beautify minds – and bodies.

Oxy is a beautiful campus and the award is well-deserved. However, some aspects could use a little makeover. Now that the Green Bean has been completed, we can direct our energies toward more important things like turning the Cooler into an envy-inducing student hangout – an academic, rustic, sweaty student hangout.

Richie DeMaria is a senior ECLS major. He can be reached at rdemaria@oxy.edu.

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