A post office, a bigger auditorium, and more lounge space were just a few of the recommendations voiced at Thursday’s open forum for the new student center.
The center’s architects, Doug Shuck and Doug Lieb from WTW Architects, said that while they haven’t picked a location or decided on a size, now is the time for student input.
“Building a community is what we think is the most important thing here,” Shuck said. “We haven’t drawn the line yet. We haven’t selected a site and we haven’t decided on a specific program. There are no preconceived ideas here. You’re on the ground level of building those ideas.”
WTW’s resume includes at least 70 universities across the country, several of which include Ohio University, Cleveland State University, Kent State University and Ohio State University.
“Each university was a completely different project for us because they don’t all have the same needs,” Lieb said. “That’s why we come in with a fresh perspective each time we begin a project.”
Miami is set to break ground for the new student center in 2009 but no one is sure what will happen to the Shriver Center.
“We haven’t decided on the future of Shriver yet because we don’t know what the new center will have that will complement what Shriver may or may not have,” Shuck said.
The architects have already met with at least two other student organizations to receive input and are hosting another open forum sometime in October.
The project team; which also includes Julie Skolnicki and Kim Martin, both from Brailsford and Dunlavely, a facility planning and program management firm; are also asking students to participate in an online survey they’ve created to maximize the amount of input they will receive.
“Our planning methodology is going to be pretty simple,” Shuck said. “You’re going to help us
decide on a lot of levels. We’re going to be coming back to you guys with questions so be thinking about locations that take in to account the traffic patterns on campus and where students are most often.”
As the team receives input, Shuck said they would begin translating programming and amenities into square footage. He explained that there are several different areas where they are hoping to get more suggestions from the Miami community such as amount of space and technology needed for everyday activities, group projects or programs and activities.
“We’re also looking at diversity,” Shuck said. “Diversity is not just about multiculturalism for us, but age groups. Oxford is not a huge metropolitan area. There is a lot of interaction between us and the community.”
Shuck also stressed the concept of the 24/7 lifestyle.
“It’s obvious that in college, activities really pick up in the evenings,” he said. “We’d like to create spaces that we can zone in the building to always be available to get food or for organizations to meet. That way we can have sectors open late with keeping the whole building lit and running.”
Environmental sustainability will also be considered.
“We are incorporating lead design,” Shuck said. “We want to provide a sustainable building that uses sustainable materials both mechanical and functional. We want to show that we are good stewards of this land.”
Several audience members at the forum expressed the need for more lounge areas.
“This is a definite,” Shuck said. “These areas are where friendships are made, colleagues are formed … students may just want to get together and study.”
Shuck and Lieb showed posters of different student centers they had designed and asked students to think about how many entrances they would want and whether or not they would like additional room for student organizations.
“We look at the student center as the leadership center of the campus,” Shuck said. “This is where students learn to become key leaders.”
Other components Shuck mentioned were the large event spaces, theaters and auditoriums.
“When you think about the new student center, think about your campus and think about filling a need that isn’t here,” Shuck said. “We think recreation needs to be a part of that 24/7 zone. Students want to have a place where they can take a break and hang out.”
Shuck mentioned ping-pong tables, pool tables and workout rooms.
Senior Jono Gasparro said he would really like to see more room for performing arts.
“This campus is really lacking a mid-sized performance hall,” he said. “We have the enormous areas and then the small ones. More students would be willing to see the arts and feel more comfortable if they could go somewhere close. It’s a gap in availability here.”
Director of the Performing Arts Series Patti Hannan Liberatore agreed saying they would like to bring bigger shows to campus, but can’t.
“We just don’t have the space to do it,” she said. “We don’t have enough capacity to sell tickets or the space to allow students to mount fairly significant productions.”
Hannan Liberatore added that she would like to see more from the bookstore.
“You notice that we are in the middle of a cornfield yet many of the students here are from larger suburbs and cities and we don’t have a lot of the brands that are available there,” she said. “If Wal-Mart and CVS don’t have something then we’re out of luck. There is an opportunity here for the university to provide that. We need things that run the gamut from food product to makeup to a Barnes and Noble-type shop.”
Shuck agreed that bookstores are a part of the retail component.
“They are an attraction to students, alumni, guests and friends,” he said. “Don’t overlook the aspect of recruitment and retention either. Tours initiate at the student center. Orientations happen here. And retail can vary all the way from optical shops and salons to credit unions and textbooks.”
Senior Kate Waller said she is involved both in AfterDark and the Environmental Action Coalition and would really like to see an area for student organizations that is more visible to the students.
“A main conference area like that would encourage more interaction between student organizations,” she said. “Right now everyone has their own separate office and that’s it. It would force you to cross paths.”
Shuck said that is something he noticed in many of the student centers their firm has designed.
“When students from one organization hear about an event another organization is doing they have the opportunity to piggyback,” he said. “Plazas and courtyards should also be taken into consideration. When you’re outside with those events and activities, people are drawn to it because they want to see what’s going on there.”
Also they continue to determine where the new location will be, Shuck said they are taking into account the exterior design of Miami’s brick buildings as well as the amount of green space.
“Miami is very blessed by having a beautiful campus,” Shuck said. “This project is going to want to be sensitive and preserve those green spaces.”
Shuck also said the new building will be fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Lastly, was the component of food service.
“Everybody is going to eat at some point during the day,” Shuck said. “Food is one of the major attractors to student centers. Think about your own homes. Everyone gathers in the kitchen.”
At the end of the forum, students were each given envelopes with a number of stickers totaling “$10 million” and were asked to walk through the poster displays and put “money” on the environments that embody what they would like to see at the university.
Steven Gordon, a Miami staff member and alumnus, said for him, a key compon
ent is displaying the history of Miami.
“Right now we don’t have a place for people to come and see what Miami is all about-except the Indian Room,” he said. “I would like to see some kind of display or history room so that when people came they can see where Miami came from. It will put Miami on the map.”