Polshek presents new student center designs to committee

After taking the summer off while students and administrators were away, architects from the Polshek Partnership presented updated plans and models to the Student Center committee last Friday. The most notable changes from previous plans include a more streamlined east façade and reworked interior plans. Interior programming includes a pub and entertainment center in the basement, dining services functions and the mailroom on the ground floor and student organization offices and a study lounge on the second floor.

“I think the façade is going to work,” said Dean Roseman, chair of the student center committee. “The porch is smaller and lighter and the cylinder of the snackbar is really the focal point of the building. . . people who were very vocal critics of the early version seemed pleased.”

EJ Johnson, profesor of art, agreed and said, “At last it has become a really handsome design that is both its own thing and also something that will complement Chapin. They have achieved a simplicity and clarity that I was not at all sure they would ever find. . . The architects have listened to what we want, and they have, I think, at last come through.”

Most prominent on the façade is the curve of the Snack Bar, which will face Main Street, much like it does now. The cylindrical shape will extend to the second floor with the upstairs serving as a study room which Johnson said “will have great views and should turn out to be one of the finest interiors on campus.”

Another major change is in the basement, where Polshek has proposed a performance space that will seat 140-150 people. The space, to be used for movies, plays and potentially lectures, will have a sloped floor, with fixed seating and sound buffers. Polshek is particularly experienced with designing performance spaces, having recently completed work on a new underground theater at Carnegie Hall.

The rest of the basement, which has been opened up from above for more light, will feature a social lounge, a pub with brick oven pizza and the Grab-and-Go. Storage and mechanical areas will take up the rest of the space.

The ground floor of the Student Center involves fewer major changes, instead showing more finessing with the proportions and an effort to “break up spaces to make more intimate spaces,” according to Roseman. The centerpiece is still the two-story “Great Hall,” which Roseman described as shorter, wider and “proportioned a lot better.” On one side of the Great Hall is the mailroom, which will reuse the current mailboxes. On the other side is the building’s dining services component, including a Snack Bar modeled after the current space, as well as a “Market Dining” area in lieu of a traditional dining hall.

The market dining area will feature several stations, including a “Waldorf” station for comfort foods, with meats carved to order and grilled “exhibition-style.” Other stations will feature specialty soups and salads, pasta, Asian cuisine and a New York-style delicatessen.

“The new arrangements will benefit the students in many ways,” said Bob Volpi, director of dining services. “The cooking method related to exhibition cooking will allow for fresher foods, [and] our menu will be enhanced greatly with the addition of new equipment like a rotisserie, hearth oven and induction ranges.”

The second floor also remains largely unchanged, though now the plans for the office locations and spacing are much more detailed. Offices and meeting rooms ring the second floor of the Great Hall and are anchored by a group of residential offices, including those of the Community Life Coordinators, the Residential Life Director and the Student Activities office. Residential life director and Baxter committee member Doug Bazuin was particularly enthusiastic about this, calling the cluster a “one-stop-shopping” area for student life concerns.

Other student groups such as College Council (CC), Minority Coalition (MINCO), All Campus Entertainment (ACE), Peer Health and the Record will also have offices upstairs, adjacent to the circular reading room above the Snack Bar. The architects are currently working on the details of these offices after meeting with representatives from the various groups last week.

Representatives from Polshek will be back on campus for a student forum on Oct. 2 or 3.

In the meantime, the committee is continuing to fine tune the design, particularly in regard to budgeting concerns. The project is currently budgeted at $36 million, but the new plan has yet to undergo full pricing analysis.

If all goes according to schedule, the current Baxter should be dismantled in June 2004 and construction of the new student center will take approximately two years from start to finish.

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