Red squares across the state

Via OlyBlog – This ain’t CNN, “Evergroove trivia, pt. 1“:

“Then we could observe people walking around on Red Square through the grates. The original Red Square, a wide area surrounded by berms and narrow exits, had an incredibly slippery surface in the 1970s. We always felt it was that way on purpose for crowd control. The bricks were replaced in the 1980s. During the time the campus was designed, student unrest around the country was widespread. ”

In fact, it is my understanding that the ubiquity of a “red square” at every state campus was specifically due to utility for crowd control. Any demonstrations in these squares could be controlled with water from a firehose which would make the brick slippery and allow the force from a nozzle to topple people to the ground. I believe I heard this for the first time on a campus visit to WWU many years ago.

At the University of Washington, the Suzzallo Quadrangle, which was, I believe an open field, was replaced with red brick in 1969, at the time the undeground garage was built. There turns out to be a wikipedia article about UW’s Red Square, but it claims the brick was used because there was fear that rain would leak through grass and soil into the garage beneath. I suspect that may have been the politic reason.

As an aside, and here’s my most precious bit of trivia about Red Square at the UW, the chimney stacks are the height of the pyramids on the Giza plateau in Egypt.

Those chimneys are close enough together that it’s possible to climb up between them just by pressing against two stacks. People have climbed up there and had to be rescued several times over the years. I remember hearing that it was actually pretty frequently, in fact.

But at least people walking on the Red Square at the UW don’t have to pass between the Grassy Knoll and the Clock Tower! I get a kick out of the procession diagram each graduation that looks like a map from a conspiracy rant … book. The diagram that is given to graduates that shows the procession passing between those two landmarks is a pretty heavy unintentional frisson, an allegory for the coming transition to off-campus life?

The trifecta of bad taste would go into effect if Evergreen’s Red Square ever got metaphorically confused with Tiananmen Square, or, I suppose, the eponymous Red Square in Moscow.