Campus Cribs: Sage B301 is the ‘God Quad’ of first-year housing

Nigel Jaffe and Irene Loewenson

God Quad is home to four first-years and features thought-provoking decorations like a cigarette ad from a vintage Playboy issue. Sam Gollob/Contributing Photographer

When we arrived at Sage B301, what immediately struck us was not the array of signs on the door reading “GOD QUAD” in bold italics. Nor the model of the three-mast German warship atop the bookshelf. Nor the life-size cutout of a man dressed like James Dean and covered in Post-Its containing quotations from members of Sage AB. It was the barking.

“This is now Dog Quad,” God Quad resident Tristan Whalen ’22 said jokingly as three small dogs, brought by his entrymates’ relatives for Family Days, ran around the room.

In God Quad, there is often something unconventional going on. “It’s the most exciting thing ever to walk down this hall and hear voices because I don’t know what I’m going to walk in on,” said Whalen, who lives in one of the two rooms in God Quad’s associated suite.

Though only inhabited by four people – Yousef Alamassi ’22, Stephen Kletscher ’22, David Shakirov ’22 and Whalen – God Quad attracts between 15 and 30 visitors, mostly first-years, on a typical day.

God Quad is a space unlike any other in Sage Hall. In Whalen’s words, it serves as “an entry within the entry,” a cozy gathering place for residents in its constituent suites and beyond.

“God Quad is very inviting socially,” said Rebecca Coyne ’22, who lives in a neighboring suite. “There’s always something going on there.”

Famous for its idiosyncratic décor and trademark “Sagers,” God Quad has quickly become a focal point of Frosh Quad nightlife, even temporarily earning its own landmark on Google Maps with over 45 reviews. Alamassi, for one, feels the reputation is well-deserved, declaring, “I think Frosh Quad is the best place on Earth, and I think God Quad is the best place in Frosh Quad.”

“The name ‘God Quad’ just sort of came to be,” Whalen said. “I don’t remember the first time I heard it.” He noted that his common room is not the first college dorm to bear the name. At Yale, the “God Quad” is a lavish suite for seniors in Branford College. “I guess somebody who had heard about it applied that term here,” Whalen said.

For Whalen, God Quad is more than a common room. “I’d like to think that God Quad is a harbor – a thoroughfare – for all of that microcosmic social interaction that happens in the entry,” Whalen said. “A lot of ideas, opinions, motivations and people pass through here.”

Much of what sets God Quad apart from other common rooms on campus is its intentional yet incongruous aesthetic. For starters, the ceiling lights in God Quad are always turned off. String lights of various colors snake along the walls while a floor lamp, draped in a purple feather boa, gives off an even wider range of colors. Two of the walls sport vintage 1960s floral wallpaper, which Whalen bought at a flea market in Pownal, Vt. The art includes, but is not limited to, a print of a Soviet propaganda poster, a large piece of paper that reads “All that is solid melts into air” hung upside-down, a painting of a hawk with a fish in its claws, two framed playing cards and a golden dragon statuette adorned with rolls of colored electrical tape.

“Just to be clear: none of this is rational,” Whalen said. “Buying a feather boa, spending hours putting up wallpaper – it doesn’t make sense. And that’s a hard thing for people to get.”

But Whalen likes that the art in God Quad inspires different reactions in different viewers. “I wanted this to be a place where people think about stuff,” he said. “Granted, a lot of the things that happen in here are not that intellectually focused.”

The noise from the near-constant activity in God Quad, intellectually focused or otherwise, can be distracting for those who live nearby. “You can’t do work in your room if people are loud out there,” Shakirov said. “That’s certainly a con. You can’t isolate yourself from God Quad.” Still, living in God Quad has its pros. “Here, you’re right in the heart of this social mixer,” he said.

Kletscher gave a similar perspective. “I’m a social person, so I really appreciate walking out and seeing people in here all the time,” he said. “Of course, you can’t really study in here. But I think the tradeoff is worth it.”

Alamassi agreed, saying that though God Quad can get too loud, he enjoys living there. “I’m an international student, and I think that the God Quad experience has contributed a lot to making me feel at home,” said Alamassi, who is from Gaza City, Palestine. He especially appreciates the social interaction and unusual décor.

But before God Quad was a meticulously decorated social hub, it was just shabby Sage B301. When Whalen moved into his dorm, he was dismayed at how bare the common room was. By the second day, he became “determined to make something” of the room.

“I loved the idea of taking a common room that doesn’t have articulable promise, that seems sort of bleak and gray and uniform, and using that as a strength,” he said. “Not creating something new, but keeping those quirky idiosyncrasies, like the foam coming out of tears in the couch – of course, we don’t really have a choice about that – I think that makes this [space] not some weird, highfalutin, pretentious thing that’s pretending to be something it’s not, but rather something that’s kind of raw and realistic.”

Over the first few weeks of the semester, Whalen dedicated himself to decorating the room. He got the art from all over: his room at home, gifts and the MASS MoCA shop. Some of it, like the mounted and framed playing cards, are his own creations. (The art is for sale, with negotiable prices ranging from $10 to $300.) Now, God Quad has taken a life of its own that is welcome to all.

“By all means, stop by,” Whalen said. “Buy some art. Decide you don’t like the space; leave. Give us a good review on Google. Give us a bad review on Google. Just come see what we’re about.”