This story, which discussed topics like the rebuilding of the city in the 1970s and the gentrification of several of its neighborhoods, was interesting overall. But what got my attention was the fact that the building of the Pru, with its surrounding plazas and buildings, was tied to work on the Mass. Turnpike, which runs directly beneath it. This reminded me—probably for no very good reason—of the university in Neal Stephenson’s first novel, The Big U. The setting is based largely on Boston University, located a short distance from the Prudential Center, which Stephenson was attending when he wrote it. (Some details of the school seem, however, to be more like a big state college, say the one in Ames, Iowa, where Stephenson’s father taught while he was growing up—and I’m not sure why the novel describes BU's surrounding neighborhood as “a slum.”) One of the things I liked about The Big U was the way Stephenson reimagined the BU campus. He took three or four separate parts of the campus: the science and engineering complex and the Nickolodeon movie theater that sat at its base; the Warren Towers complex, a huge freshman dormitory, and the retail stores and takeout places that sat at its base; “Football Field Towers,” a second huge dorm that sat right at the edge of the athletic fields; and the underground infrastructure that lay at the base of all of it; and he mashed them all up together into a single mega-multi-juxtaposition, so that the entire campus was one big complex, or “Plex.” The bottom layers were the infrastructure; the next-bottommost were science and engineering; then administration; then the towers of the dorms; and just outside the sheer battlements was the freeway. He captured the sense of isolation and complexity of a big urban campus and of the university itself, with the logistics of bringing in supplies in the morning, and shuttling out waste at night, mirroring the intake of students, and outflow of graduates (or of dropouts). It would be interesting if the sense of BU’s architecture that Stephenson based this on applied, as well, to the Pru.
 Not to be confused with Columbia’s “The Plex,” the oddly lame place that replaced The Pub in the Lion’s Den under John Jay Hall when New York’s drinking age was raised to twenty-one. In the Pub you could wear jeans and hang out in the dark. In the Plex, if you were over twenty-one, you could listen to cool music (I guess) and eat pizza in a brightly-lit space, separated by a big glass window from the disco where the youngsters, wearing dresses and suits, could dance to a selection of Latin music.