Seeking simplified designs, Polshek to revisit campus

Architects from Polshek Partnership will be back on campus tonight for an open forum about designs for the second drafting of the student center project. After previous designs were found to be $6-7 million over budget, the architects have gone back to the drawing board, working on what Dean Roseman calls a “much simpler” building.

The all-campus meeting, scheduled for 7:30 tonight in Wege Auditorium, will be primarily about the general function of the building, adjacencies and how students intend to use the space. The meeting, led by Stephen Chu, project designer and Greg Lawson, project manager, will consist of a short power-point presentation and then an open discussion. Diagrams will be conceptual rather than exact, with comparisons of the old functions and the new functions of the building floor by floor.

“Nothing is really set right now,” said Chu, who added that “we don’t want to explore [specifics] until we talk to the students.”

According to Chu, the architects have decided on a few basic premises for each floor, though nothing is final. The first floor will likely still hold the mailroom, the Great Hall and an expanded Snack Bar and dining area, while the second floor will probably hold student organizations, services and meeting rooms. The basement will likely include a multi-purpose room and pub, though Roseman mentioned that moving the pub to the second floor might be a possibility.

Unlike the initial designs, the new Baxter design will only have two floors. A cut in dining services will predominantly make up for the lost space, with a market-place style dining area rather than a traditional dining hall. “We’ve looked at the program of the building and what we thought was excessive, [searching for] areas that could be taken away and still keep the building a vibrant place,” said Chu, who said the architects decided to cut down on dining areas largely because that space would remain unused for large portions of the day.

Consolidating student organizations’ headquarters also seemed to be a top priority, as Chu explained that “in our opinion. . . it’s not the right move to cut student organizations or student services from a student center.”

The meeting tonight will focus almost entirely on the interior and functions, as the architects haven’t made any decisions regarding the exterior as of yet.

“Unlike many architects, [Polshek] designs inside-out, not outside-in,” said Roseman, who emphasized that programming the interior is the current priority.

Chu described the process slightly differently, however, stating that “our intention is to develop the exterior hand-in-hand with the interior,” yet he agreed that no decisions have been made about the building’s façade.

On the whole, administrators seem pleased with the second round of designs, often stating that the budget problems have yielded a better design, which Roseman characterized as “more intimate.”

Chu agreed, stating “I think we all agree that. . . this is actually a good move and the building will be better because of it,” and noted that as a two-story building the student center will be closer to the scale of its surroundings.

In addition to the upcoming meetings with students, the architects have also been meeting with faculty, including E.J. Johnson, professor of art. “The first design has proved to be a learning experience for everyone involved,” Johnson said. “I would say that there’s openness to new ideas from the community [and] I have considerable hope that what results from this second design will be much better than the first scheme.”

Chu and Roseman both encouraged students to attend the 7:30 p.m. open meeting, primarily to talk about functions of the space and adjacencies. Chu also mentioned that he plans on arriving half an hour early if students have other matters to discuss.