The New York Times has a review of a new science building at Columbia University, where President Lee Bollinger, who is chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, makes $1,753,984 a year, including the tax gross-up on his dental insurance premiums. The reviewer writes: "The lobby interior is clad in richly veined Portuguese marble, the kind of sumptuous material that Loos used to lessen the severity of his spaces."
It's amazing what one can do with tax-exempt bond financing, the charitable gift deduction, National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health grant money, and Pell Grants and federally subsidized student loans. Mr. Bollinger gives out the Pulitzer Prizes, so the chances of his institution coming in for much scrutiny from the press for this sort of thing are between zero and none. The Times seems to be applauding it.
It's been more than 250 years since Columbia was founded as King's College by the Church of England and more than 350 since Harvard was founded by New England Puritans, and both institutions have long since shed their formal religious affiliations. I've got nothing against luxury, Episcopalians, Columbia, or Portuguese marble. But I do think it's not straining too much to see some remnants of different religious attitudes toward luxury expressed in the architecture of Columbia as compared with the more modest red brick structures of Harvard Yard.