Students voice concern over ugliness of building, are assured it won’t be that ugly
Yesterday, Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson, Vice President for Planning and Facilities Management Robin Morey, and the architects from Sasaki hosted a student forum on the Northeast Triangle Project. The forum was a direct result of student criticism of the Northeast Triangle dorm, to be located in the park in front of Reiss, taking the “Y dis not Healy?” petition, signed by over 700 alumni and current students, into account.
The dorm signals the first step in the Campus Plan commitment to establishing a “living, learning community” at Georgetown, said Todd Olson. GUSA President Nate Tisa, also noted that it was important that the building be something that students are “proud of, not just satisfied with.”
Discussion began with the architects from Sasaki ask students why they what they were so “riled” about. Student responses were numerous and overwhelmingly negative. One student described the concept drawings as “antithetical to Georgetown’s ethos”, stating the building was not “awe-inspiring”.
Others noted that the proposed dorm was in an area of high traffic, thereby making the construction very disruptive to students. Many students questioned the placement of the building, given the numerous alternatives. Another key area of concern was the loss of the green space (the building actually takes up 15% of the current green space), especially to a building that was adding to the collection of “aesthetically unpopular” buildings on the northeast side of campus. The loss of green space was somewhat mitigated by the commitment to ensuring that the building was LEED Gold certified, though students still noted the lack of visible green space on campus as a whole.
The architects at Sasaki, sensing that the building was fundamentally at odds with students’ views of the “Georgetown ethos”, asked attendants what the Georgetown ethos meant to them. Students referenced the duality of Georgetown, with the motto of “Utraque Unum” and the colors of blue and gray. Others mentioned the sense of community on campus, the scholastic feel, and that buildings have an “enduring sense.”
With University administrators noting that time was running out, the discussion turned to the facts. The architects laid out the overall campus plan goal: to reorient student housing from being focused in the Main Campus (Harbin, VCW, VCE, Village A, New South) to creating four “quadrants” of equal weight in population. North Campus (Darnall, Henle, new dorm) would increase bed numbers from 778 to 1,348—1475. East Campus (LXR and Nevils) would see an increase of beds from 1,151 to 1,469. Main Campus, now housing over 3,000 students, would be split into West Campus (SWQ, new dorm) with 1,129—1,201 beds and Core Campus (Harbin, Village A, New South, VCW, VCE) with 1,791 beds.
The main question on everyone’s mind concerned the placement of the building. Students referenced building on top of Leavey, repurposing Kobert Kagan Kober Cogan, Reiss, or Ryan, and converting the hotel. The architects gave a number of reasons for why these spots were unfeasible – Leavey, Reiss, and the hotel had a high cost to number of beds ratio, MedStar owns Kober Cogan, and Ryan is slated to be repurposed later on. They did say, however, that the Harbin terrace was their second choice for a new building. The Northeast Triangle was ultimately chosen because the Harbin terrace houses the recycling zones and facilities, and there were far more infrastructure concerns. Furthermore, they are planning on building the dorm at the same time as the new multisport field.
The best news to come out of the forum, besides that juniors get to live in this brand new dorm, was that the parking lot in front of the hospital is most likely going to be turned into a park à la Central Park in Georgetown.
Probably the most important question asked during the forum concerned the feasibility of the Campus Plan. As a number of students noted, 90 percent of students need to be on campus by 2025. Instead of targeting the majority of students that live off campus, namely juniors and seniors, this dorm is going to end up with a majority sophomore population. Todd Olson assuaged fears by saying that the proposed dorm is a “good place for juniors to live in if interested.” He assured those in attendance that he was going to hold a separate forum to address this specific problem, and was not sidestepping the issue.
The meeting concluded with the architects inviting students to comment on the brown paper panels full of possible designs for the proposed dorms. Markers and stickers were handed out, with green and blue indicating a positive response to the images and red and yellow a negative response. The architects are going to take the results of these panels and implement them into a redesign. As one of the architect pointed out, “We are still designing. [The original proposal] is not the final design.”
The next forum on the dorm of doom is to be held on Wednesday, August 28, location and time TBA.
Editor’s note: This post erroneously identified a possible space for a new dorm as Kobert Kagan, and also stated that the Campus Plan requires 92 percent of students to be on-campus in 2015.
Design courtesy Georgetown University.