I was expecting Madison, WI to be different in a Midwest sort of way. You know: friendlier, more flatness and green space, lower buildings, dorkier looking people. I was not expecting it to be so beautiful, so well planned and cared for, or so proud of its local artistic heritage. But from the minute I arrived at the little Madison airport (the smallest one I've been to in the lower 48), I realized I was in for a treat.
Frank Lloyd Wright was everywhere. The glass banisters featured a design taken from his stain glass. Lanterns modeled after his signature lamps accent the glass vestibules at each gate. The gate counters themselves look like they came out of the Chrysler Building, and you half expect the people behind them to be serving cocktails rather than boarding passes. Every column was graced by a sconce that I would love to have, and even the columns themselves exuded Frank Lloyd Wright with their "capitals" made from projecting geometric planes. I don't believe I saw any trash during my visit, perhaps because people can't help using such gorgeously modern trashcans.
On your way out of the airport you even pass an exhibit about Frank Lloyd Wright and Japan, his work on the Tokyo Imperial hotel and his collection of Japanese prints (which found its way to the UW art museum via a circuitous route).
But enough about the airport, on to the campus! My biggest impression was that the campus is big, and in fact I only saw a small portion of it and walked around even less. My next impression was that it was beautiful, with lots of green space and trees. Mom (who came out to help me with the apartment hunt) and I had our bratwurst out of the terrace of the student union and walked along its docks. Everyone was out enjoying the humid-free warmth and lake-shore breeze.
Another surprise was the sumptuous State Capitol building, whose massive dome you can see from practically anywhere. The building itself is in the shape of a Greek cross, which periodically pops up in classical architecture. Of course, it reminds me of the Capitol dome in DC, just as the west side of Madison reminded me of the neighborhoods my friends and I grew up in in Northwest DC. I may feel right at home in Madison after all.