Hilary Ballon

This professor has earned a CULPA silver nugget

May 2006

It was a treat to get to take this class. I had been a fan of KJ for some time but never took a course with Ballon. She is absolutely amazing. She knows her stuff, is a great speaker, and is extremely approachable. Her and Jackson compliment each other extremely well and she would talk about the design and built environment while Jackson would talk about the social/political end of Moses' works. Moses is a great subject for a seminar and since the 2 of them are working on a three-part exhibit on Robert Moses it was great taking this seminar at this time. The class was really fun and engaging and the reading was great. Most importantly we got to really question ourselves and the readings (particularly Robert Caro's 'The Power Broker') We did group projects instead of seminar papers, and while I would have preferred the latter, everything came out fine and each group conducted interesting research. Overall an awesome seminar!

Jan 2006

This course was amazing! It is definitely one of my favorite so far. It covered many aspects of both the built environment in urban areas and the politics and minds behind its creation. At the beginning it is a little slow but it picks up quickly and improves greatly. Both the readings and the lectures were interesting. Professor Ballon was always an engaging and entertaining lecturer. Her slides to go with them were also good choices and added much to the lectures. The sections weren't torture but a venue to discuss the readings that were helpful and informative. Even though I didn't have to kill myself to do well in this class I know a lot more about cities and their structures now than before the class. Definitely take this class if you are looking for an interesting, not too difficult class.

Dec 2005

Overall, this was a great class. Professor Ballon is an interesting and thoughtful lecturer. The assignments and exams were not too hard, but its not a joke class either. there is reading, but you could probably get away without doing most of it until you see what you need to read for the final. i did the reading, though, it was interesting and not too much to do. like another reviewer said, don't be scared off by the first few classes, which are a little boring. the stuff gets really interesting. i find myself remembering little tidbits from class whenever im just walking around the city. i recommend.

Nov 2005

I don't understand some of the negative reviews of Prof. Ballon. Some people must really personalize stuff. She is not cold and scary and all that unless you have some other issues to deal with unrelated to her as a lecturer. Urban Form has been incredibly interesting and covers a lot of ground. Prof. Ballon chooses some amazing old photos for her lecutures, her grasp of the material is excellent, she is friendly and approachable. She answers email promptly and is nice about it. The course is really great. Who knew that plumbing and roads could be so fascinating. What's more, if Prof Ballon was a building, she would be the Chrysler Building.

Jun 2004

The material covered in this class is fascinating and for anyone interested in urban planning, European cities, or churches I would definitely recommend it. Another cool thing about the class is that she brings in lots of guest speakers from other schools to talk about different subjects. There are, however, some negatives to the class. First, I felt as though Ballon was trying to cover so much that she never really got to round out her arguments by the end of each lecture. I have to disagree with the person who said that there is a lot of reading- as an undergraduate, I was shocked by how little reading this graduate class had. She does, however, give you bibliographies of other related books if you want to read more. Additionally, since there were no discussion sections, I felt as though I didn't have to keep up with the reading. And, because she gives you the essay questions for the final and midterm before hand, you can read a few key readings a few days before, memorize the slides and be fine. Frankly, I think that this is definitely an 'ace-able' class because she lays out exactly what you have to do and the questions on the finals and midterms focus on the key points of the class. Her paper topics were interesting and varied, and seemed to be graded fairly. I would recommend this class- it's really interesting, she's a great lecturer and really, you only have to do about 15% of the readings to get by, and many of them were skimmable.

May 2004

Hillary Ballon is a terrific professor - eloquent, erudite and in love with what she is teaching. Certain things that have been pointed out are true - she seems to take herself very seriously, she does seem to have a cruel streak and can come across as somewhat fake at times - but that has nothing to do with her teaching. In fact, her eccentricities made her all the more compelling. She treats every class like a performance, she is the diva, and she puts on a great show - at turns merely informative and educational, sometimes even inspiring (her modern architecture classess were especially awesome).

May 2004

I tell you what, do not drink coffee or eat anything in class, she is gonna come over and knock your cup down saying :you cannot eat in lecture! What the. And the TA is stupidly annoying--she flips every slide and adjust and lencese at the same time so everyone stare at the screen is dizzy every time the slides are changed, and she does it all the time deligently!!! If you got good vision, you will definitely have to wear glasses by the time of the final, which I warn you: you will lower your general GPA because of this class: if you got A's in all other architecture/art history classes, you will get a B-/C+ in this one, while the old men get A for some unknown reason. Anyway, if you can choose, do not take this class, for the sake of your GPA and your self-confidence, your eyes and your stomach. Not funny, it is painfully true, just ask everyone else in this class. My sincere advice after misery and regret for not dropping this class before the deadline is: try to take other professors' classes in the department, RUN AWAY!

May 2004

I have never had such an amazing class- On the last day, the class clapped for at least 2 minutes, until she blushed and ducked behind the podium. Shes sooo intelligent, well spoken- organized, timely, brilliant, interesting, engaging, personable....pick a good adjective, it will apply to this woman.

Nov 2003

AMAZING!!!! I can't believe what the other reviewers are saying about Professor Ballon. I can say with total confidence that she is one of the best professors I have ever had. She knows her subject matter backwards and forwards. Her lectures are always interesting, informative and well thought-out (she probably has the most perfect grammar of any professor on campus) and she is an all-around kind and sweet woman. I think that her teaching award was well-deserved and long overdue. Take a class with this professor before you leave won't regret it!

Nov 2003

I have mixed feelings about Professor Ballon. On one hand, she's incredibly well-versed in architectural history and can go on for hours describing each buildings' unique features, etc., but on the other hand, she can be so incredibly ... fake? She spews forth all this vocabulary, which at first sounds intelligent, until you realize that she's using them all wrong. But in any case, the class is incredibly interesting and makes you look at buildings in a different light. You're asked to make sketches of buildings throughout NYC, so you actually do get a hands-on understanding of what you're studying in class. If you want to take a class for fun and personal interest in architecture, this is definitely a good class to start off with.

Nov 2003

I think this class is lots of fun, but it can be boring. Ballon is really enthusiastic and her eloquence will really blow you away, even though sometimes she gets carried away with her own fluency in language. I will put this bluntly, she knows what the hell she's talking about. She is the chair of Columbia's Art History Department. She has this feel about her; she is a successful woman. Her lectures cover architecture's history from the megalithic structures of Malta to Penn Station. I think the class is lots of fun. The slides are spectacular, and the class itself gives you a whole new way of looking at New York. You walk around, and you feel like you understand more. It's quite cool. She has ZERO influence on your grade. Your TA will do that. The readings are really great and you will get to discuss those in your sections. There is a fair amount of reading! We have no textbook and I think that’s just perfect. We read essays and books about architecture. They are arguments, so they are fun to argue about. You will not have to deal with dull texts! These are lots of fun. The weekly sketches will force you to get off campus. Just spend a lot of time on them, and write some good comments, they are graded easily. You’ll cheat yourself if you just do them offline. The midterm is relatively easy. They give you the questions before hand. Prepare essays! There is also a 6 page paper to write, and you have to read a few books for that. In general, I like Ballon. She is so enthusiastic about the architecture of the world around her that she makes you eager to look up at buildings – to experience architecture (as one of your books is called). If you have a gut reaction though, that you don’t like the way she presents the material on day one, then maybe you shouldn’t take the course because it will be like that all along. The class is really consistent, and I like how goes. I’d say go with your intuition. If you don’t like it, get out. Find a TA you like! Anna Vallye is really knowledgeable and eloquent. Her section is great. She lets discussion role, and she is a reasonable grader. She is very approachable. I say, take the class. You’ll really appreciate the world around you in a different way, and that’s the beauty of education, right?

Jan 2003

Prof Ballon gives you an appreication for the form of the American city in the same way ArtHum or Music Hum theoretically gives you an appreciation for those art forms. She shows you new ways to view your surroundings. The class touches on history, art, architecture, sociology, economics, etc. Interesting class to take just for the heck of it.

May 2002

I find Ballon repellant. If you want to know what is wrong with here start here: she is an urbanist who lives in New Jersey. She studies cities and lives in the 'burbs. She is competent, yes, but she is an administrator at heart and as frigid as a winter's night. Her veins flow with antifreeze and she is curt and unfriendly. I am often inclined to use words such as "just" in regards to Ballon, because although she is intelligent and admirable, she is also frightening and at times cruel. I also very much have the impression that she is one of those people who is only content when variations on her own ideas are parroted back at her. My advice: be careful with this lady.

Jan 2000

Dear God, how did this woman win a teaching award? You learned most of the material in this course in your high school American History class, and the rest is pretty damn obvious. Roommate's presence precludes afternoon napping in your dorm room? Let Ballon's white noise lull you into a solid hour of somnolent bliss in the darkened lecture hall.

Jan 2000

This is one of the best classes that I have taken at Columbia, and I hate art history! Don't be daunted by the first class (boring intro to first colonies) as the class moves on into more modern cities it just gets better and better. This is a great intro to urban studies in general in that she goes through different aspects of city development, including transportation, zoning, and planning movements. Also, I have heard that many art history professors are disorganized - Professor Ballon's lectures are very structured and she always presents exactly what she introduces in the begining of class. Because of the nature of art history classes (dark room with slides) she makes a special effort to organize more intimate dinners to meet her students.

Jan 2000

You might be interested to know that Ballon is a 1999 Faculty Teaching Award winner.