“We’re in hell.”
That’s what sophomore Molly Burns has to say about the first floor of Alumni Hall, which trades in fire, brimstone and the eternally screaming souls of the damned for wood shavings, broken drill bits and the curses of one of the most hard-working groups of students on campus.
Alumni is an interestingly juxtaposed building. The brick and stone of the old library encompasses the entrance and a few classrooms. Further into the building, the classic space gives way to the modern, lofted, steel and glass showcase and studio space.
This “hell” has four circles, as opposed to Dante’s seven. The first-years are pampered with the only upstairs studio. Straight ahead on the first floor is the junior studio, often referred to as “the Cave.” It’s flanked by the senior studio on the left, and the sophomore studio on the right.
Entering the sophomore studio feels like walking into a wooden labyrinth. Each corner brings a new marvel to the forefront of vision.
Kite-shaped loft spaces, a suspension bridge, an outdoor canopy cover, shelf space shaped like the letter “X” and a menacing wood pallet fort give a sense of the wide creative spectrum on which the Architecture and Interior Design students lie.
These designs are a result of the first studio project of the semester: building a workspace. It demands much more than simply building a desk, though.
Each student is grouped with others sitting close to them, and together they must create a structurally interesting workspace that is purposeful and practical, while also connecting the four independent desks and creating a cohesive unit.
It’s not uncommon to find a few people in the studio, perpetuating the silently chaotic atmosphere as they work late into the night and early morning to realize their creative vision.
“I’ll sometimes be in studio until 3 or 4 a.m.,” says Burns, “That way I can get at least three hours of sleep before my 8:30.”
The demands of this project make this even more true. Many groups have designs that require working right up to the deadline, two weeks after the project was assigned.
RJ Davis, an architecture major, is among one of these groups working on Sunday for the Monday deadline.
“I’m here because I’m committed,” Davis says “I originally wanted to do studio art, but I fell in love with architecture. I love figuring out how a space will flow, how a space will make someone feel.”
This extreme commitment and passion is infectious in the studio. Many work with concentration comparable to Auguste Rodin’s statue The Thinker.
Fending off the demons of deadlines and fatigue appears to be rewarding for many students, though. A common sentiment among them is the excitement at seeing one of their designs go from concept to model to real-life structure.
“We’ve made designs and models before, but we never had to live with the outcome,” says Ashley Boyle, another architecture major. “It was thrilling to know that I get to live with and use whatever I built. The best part was when it was finished, knowing that I was able to work with my neighbors to overcome the challenges that came our way.”
The fiery pits will only get hotter from here. The final project in the studio will be designing a nature center, and in another major class they’ll be constructing bridges.
The ARC and ID students have completed their second two-week project and are preparing for their third project in six weeks.
“It’s something that you almost can’t escape,” says Burns, elaborating on being in “hell.” “But at the same time you’re kind of stuck to it. What keeps me going is the belief that there’s some kind of benefit to it. That if you put yourself through that, you’ll be stronger in the end, that you’ll learn something through it.”