Note: I am currently a grad student at Duke
Duke University is one of those "grand institutions" that didn't make the selective Ivy League (think Stanford, MIT, CalTech). The buildings are styled after "gothic" architecture but look more like castle fortifications to me. Nevertheless, when framed artistically by romantic, drooping tree, flowers, and quads of green, green grass, Duke really appears quite comfortable and appealing to the eye. Do not take the infamous Chapel for granted, either; it's stately position in the heart of campus is quietly noble.
As a graduate student, I reside primarily in the Medical Center, which is north of the Chapel. The research breadth and depth is truly astounding here. The recently built Center for Human Genome Sciences is just another example of the type of ambitious collaborations and research endeavors that go on daily at Duke. The hospital is definitely a landmark within the city of Durham.
I cannot speak much of the undergraduate life at Duke, but it seems freshmen are housed in East campus, which is about a mile from the main campus. The purpose of this is to establish unity, I suppose, not necessarily a bad thing. The undergrads are required to spend 3 years living on campus. I've heard of there being a sort of "stereotype" amongst the students, and I have to admit, most of the men look like they shop solely at Abercrombie & Fitch (why pay $60 for meticulously cut up jeans?!! and pop that collar down!). The females are much, much worse; their "uniform" is a tight t-shirt/polo over those hideous pleated mini skirts, flip flops, and a Louis Vuitton handbag (and believe me, it's the Real thing). So it seems most of these kids are living large on daddy's platinum card.....figures, considering the tuition.
Don't get me wrong. Duke University is a name respected around the world (even my relatives in Taiwan and China have heard of it). It will look impressive on your resume. The quality of scientific research here is top notch, so I assume it can't be too shabby in the other disciplines. Just beware of the "clone" factor.