Students meet with the architect hired to redesign Case Center: A discussion on what students wish to see in the new building

Posted by Andrew Shi

On Tuesday, seven students (including your writer) accepted the open invitation to meet with William Spears, the architect in charge of renovating Case Center. Spears is one of three principals of MDS (Miller Dyer Spears), which is headquartered in Boston. The firm fields a long list of colleges and universities for clients, and Spears oversaw the renovation of Mount Holyoke's Blanchard Campus Center. According to his profile at the firm's website, "[Spears] leads the firm's sustainable design initiatives, looking to promote buildings that that contribute to the well-being of its occupants, and minimize energy consumption and emission of greenhouse gases," making him an ideal architect to redesign Case Center, based on Skidmore's energy efficient and sustainable building agenda.

In the discussion, Spears asked the group of students what problems they had with the current building, what they liked about it, and what they envisioned the ideal Case Center would provide.

It seemed, though, that there was more things wrong with Case then were right.

"I think a lot of people start with Case or the library as the center of Campus, but Case is a transition place...we meet people there but don't stay there," Meghan Burke '13 stated.

"I was thinking of a place to lie down...and it wasn't Case," Senior Class president Emilee Bell '13 said.

One of the largest issues with Case, according to the group, was lighting. Many thought the lighting was poor, and the dark paint only exacerbated the unwelcoming ambience. Spears expressed that "it is important to make a place feel warm," and asked what exactly students might like to see to improve lighting. The consensus was more windows, and more lights throughout the building as well, as the current florescent bulbs were too sparse and dim. As Martha Snow '14 noted on Case, "it's dark even when it's sunny outside."

Another problem seemed to be a lack of comfort and intimacy. There was an expressed desire for the small rooms in Library, which offer groups an area to gather and hold private meetings. These small rooms also supply spaces for clubs to congregate and would, if built into Case, theoretically attract students there. "The library has this space that feels intimate, Case does not have that," Burke remarked. The fireplace in the Dining Hall atrium also served as another paragon for what these students wished to see in a new Case Center.

The last demanding topic of the session was about the Spa. The Spa, according to the three upperclassmen who attended, holds an important function for those who need a place to eat on campus but no longer have meal plans. But people also "use the place to study, to socialize, to eat and to hold events," Bell noted.

Some of the students complained about the food, while others thought it served its purpose. Spears questioned if the Spa might be able to host many of the events that are now conducted at Falstaffs, such as Lively Lucy's, but nobody thought the Spa in its current condition was ideal.

Bell stated that as far as hosting events went, the Spa was a poor choice because its openness undermined any form of intimacy or inclusiveness. In the end, Spears pondered if the Spa was "a multipurpose room that doesn't do anything well."

Many other facets of Case were brought up, including Ladd, which students at the meeting felt, as a hall for academia, intruded on the student space that was meant to provide a place to relax and socialize. Many students also thought that Case was hard to navigate, unsure of where rooms were and confused by the sets of offices that house Leadership Activities and now also Communications. One student also lamented about the condition of the patio outside of Burgess. "The front patio is really great except I can't walk by without coughing." The administration is currently contemplating a smoking ban or limiting smoking to smoking areas.

Spears will continue to observe and study Case and will work closely with both students and the administration as he develops a blueprint for renovation. For more information on Spears and his firm, visit http://www.mds-bos.com/.

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