Students provide feedback on New South Student Center plans

Editor’s Note: We’re trying to get sketch-ups of the New South Student Center. Check back later for an update.

Georgetown administrators held an open meeting yesterday to solicit student input on the proposed New South Student Center. A student center in the area currently occupied by Riverside Lounge has been in the works for almost a decade.

The project would be finished by fall 2014, at the earliest. Administrators expect to cover the estimated $15 million bill using money from this fall’s capital campaign. Bill Ash of the Smith Group, the architecture firm contracted for the project, presented a proposal for the center based on feedback from the 1999 and 2010 Reports on Student Space and a 2004 feasibility study.

Student consumerism

In that vein, Ash developed his plan around the idea of “student consumerism.” He explained this to mean that “you [students] want access to a variety of different things” in a one-stop shop of student services.

Alex Pon (COL ’12), CEO of the Corp, warned Ash against placing too many vendors in the students center, citing that vendors in Leavey primarily cater to non-students. Meanwhile, Olson and Ash were set on having a restaurant-type business in New South despite alternative, overlapping proposals.

After entering the center at Tondorf Road and Library Walk (across from Leo’s), an information desk and computer lounge will greet students. GUSA Vice President Greg Laverriere (COL ’12) thought that the information desk could provide useful guidance about on campus activities, as well as a good place to end admissions tours. However, Pon questioned who would pay and train students to sit there and answer questions. Students were also skeptical about the usefulness of a computer lounge

This foyer will then funnel into a hallway, off of which will branch the restaurant, multipurpose room, and game room. After moving through the game room, the hallway would continue past the windows facing the river and open into a 1350 sq. ft. “living room,” adjacent to which will be coffee shop and work areas for student groups. By comparison, Bulldog Alley is around 1850 sq. ft., according to Director for Student Programs Erika Cohen-Derr.

Function over form

Students at the meeting were not particularly receptive to the idea of a “living room,” preferring functional space over anything else.

“We theoretically have the Alumni Lounge,” Pon cautioned. “And no one goes there.” Pon also worried that the center’s layout would make the it another glorified hallway, similar to Sellinger.

Adam Talbot (COL ’12) mused that, after losing spaces such as Healy basement and Sellinger Lounge, the student body was mostly “desperate and pragmatic” when it came to space. Other participants, most of whom were club and organization leaders, generally wanted more meeting rooms for their groups, modular furniture, and storage space that might alleviate overflowing SAC closets.

Although there was general consensus that reservable meeting rooms similar to the break-out rooms in Hariri would be useful, the room was divided and confused by Ash’s proposed “shared workspace.”

The larger workspace, which would have desks and filing cabinets, could be used by small groups or large groups to work. Participants were concerned that the space would be too similar to Lau 2 and that there would be noise pollution from multiple groups in one space.

GUSA Vice President Greg Laverriere (COL ’12) countered that many students just want hang-out space.

As the forum came to a close, the architect agreed to scrap the computer lab in favor of computer and printer stations, but he didn’t indicate what he would do with respect to other concerns. The Center for Student Programs promised to another student forum in two weeks on the New South Student Center and the future use of the Leavey Center. There are also plans for a Welcome Week town hall on the issue.

16 Comments on “Students provide feedback on New South Student Center plans

  1. Okay, so I’m an alum and it occurs to me that the old Jes Res is a big fat abandoned space RIGHT in the middle of campus that has been sitting there since way before I started at Georgetown and (to the best of my knowledge) is still sitting there. What’s the deal? Are they going to do something with it? If not, why not? It seems like prime real estate and the only thing it’s used for is to catch horny undergrads who sneak in to hook up (hot, by the way).

    Can’t that be converted in to some type of student space? Also, I figure that Reiss will turn in to the same kind of dealio once the new science center is up and all the labs and shit are moved. Are they just gonna leave that old building rotting there?

  2. That old Jes Res has a lot of asbestos and needs to be gutted. As far as I know, the refurb would be pretty expensive and the funding hasn’t been allocated for that.

  3. I don’t think this piece quite catches the tone of this meeting. I think the architects were rather taken aback by the extent to which the students were conscious of and pragmatic about their own space needs and were pretty unwilling to trade in aesthetic platitudes. The fact of the matter is that 30,000 square feet in the basement of a freshman dorm is unlikely to be an “iconic” Georgetown space, but if this process is well managed, if students are conscious about prioritizing space use, and if the architects and the administration are willing to listen and to understand our concerns and needs, it can be a wholly functional one.

    The fact of the matter is that when the NSSC is constructed, students will cease (temporarily I hope) to see Leavey as a/the student center—to the extent that they ever did. So we must recognize that we are trading one building for another with a footprint a third the size. Now, Leavey was never a fully actualized space for student needs, but we can’t afford to put on rose-colored glasses during the crucial and flexible stages of the design of this new building about what this space can and should be.

    For the New South Student Center, it’s going to come down to trying to catch every kind of student space need and doing it poorly, or prioritizing a few and doing it well.

  4. I’d love to see some proposed designs before I make any informed comment.

    That having been said, some thoughts. With basically the ‘student center’ being transposed – once again – from Healy to Leavey to now New South, and the ever-decreasing amounts of space available to students, ‘form’ should be just as important, if not more, than ‘function’.

    Think about it. Healy Basement served as the student center for nearly 20 years, before being eclipsed by Leavey for about another 25. With space in increasingly short commodity, I don’t foresee any other major expansions in space, and so it’s safe to say that the New South Student Center will be around for at least another 20 years, if not longer.

    Function is certainly important, in that context. Club space, lounge space, etc. But the feel of the place is extremely important. As someone pointed out, the Village C Alumni Lounge is a monstrosity of a space — even though it’s function (meeting and social space) is pretty well-defined. In contrast, the Copley Formal Lounge, of about the same size, is clearly a favorite of students (even though they are only admitted in for events/speakers).

    Even though this is in New South doesn’t mean we have to give up on style. Especially since students should take a leading role in designing the space — it is, after all, student space — they should push to prove that students are better designers than the administrators of today. Despite (or perhaps because) being 80-130 years old, Healy, Copley and White-Gravenor speak to students in ways New South, South West Quad, Leavey and the ICC do not. Especially seeing these are going to be students’ digs for the next quarter century or more, we should stirve to emulate those buildings of the past.

    So, yes, have club space. Have a lounge. But damnit, let’s have a lounge that lives up to its name! Let’s have alumni and administrators and the office of advancement coming here! We’ve only got one chance. Let’s not fuck it up.

  5. @Matt

    Absolutely true. I don’t think these thoughts even produce friction with mine. My main concern is that, in a relatively small space, we try to do everything in terms of space functions, and end up doing nothing well. You’re completely correct that space can be ugly yet incredibly utilitarian and that this makes the space less desirable. Yet beautiful space that is sub-functional is undesirable as well, especially—as you say—this is our one shot for a good while. I do think we can put a premium on attractiveness, but that we must also prioritize the types of spaces we want and need.

    I mean, goodness knows I love me some wood paneling.

  6. @Matt We’re getting the designs as soon as the project management office gets the go-ahead to release them. That will probably be tomorrow morning.

  7. @Adam

    Well, can’t argue there. As an alumnus, I don’t really care what the space is used for, as long as students are okay with it, but I can’t stand either another modernist interior or Bland U chic (c.f. SWQ). Poor taste inhibits the feeling of ownership over space that is necessary for a vibrant student life. It’s the difference between club space one is forced of necessity to use, and club space one can truly feel pride in. Or, to sum:

    “My tastes are simple, I am easily satisfied with the best.” – Winston Churchill

  8. Do freshmen in New South still desecrate every available surface, fixture, and appliance like they did in the pre-renovation days? If so, I sincerely hope they will be somehow kept out of any well-designed student space. Juniors and seniors who may want or need to use the space shouldn’t have to compete with idiot kids who crap on radiators.

  9. music practice rooms anyone? with drum kits?

  10. Why are these town halls being held at the tail end of design? This is another case of administrators “soliciting” the views of students on big issues. In other words, they do something so they can say they had student input, when, in reality, let’s look at what they’ve done. They held an unadvertised town hall meeting DURING SUMMER BREAK, mere months before they need the plans to be done to go public with the new capital campaign.

    Instead of getting to help ideate the concept of the space from the very beginning, students are being presented with a concept and essentially being asked to choose the color of the drapes, because that’s “student input.”

    What a disappointment. We can do better.

  11. Just a quick update: For whatever reason, the Office of Project Management needs authorization to release the PowerPoint they showed (along with the plans themselves). They will try to get them to us by Monday.

  12. Pingback: Vox Populi » Vox obtains draft renderings of New South Student Center

  13. Thank goodness the distate for modern architecture and design is common here. Now if only the administrators would listen.

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  15. Pingback: Vox Populi » Students envision redesigned Leavey Center

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