All the talk of Ron Thom’s architecture in this week’s Arthur and around campus has got me thinking of the next architectural project to take place at Trent: the student centre.
When it’s built, it will (hopefully) be a student-operated space that addresses the concerns of overcrowding and the general lack of student space on campus.
It will be the centre of student life on campus that features hang-out space, offices, and independent food services, at least according to its original mandate.
Originally passed as a referendum question in March 2013, the project had a difficult year in 2013-14. The TCSA originally spoke of a $21 million building when the referendum was passed, but last year the university more or less told the TCSA they could contribute nothing to the cause, and that number fell to $10.5 million.
Now, the future’s looking a little brighter for the project: the university has procured some funding after all and things are moving forward again.
The referendum question was composed of three “yes” options and one “no” option ($105 levy, $95 levy, $85 levy, or no student centre at all). The original pitch for the centre implied that the most expensive levy would be required to build a state-of-the-art building. The cheapest levy would result in the DNA Building’s uglier cousin.
The TCSA ended up with a mandate to run a $95 levy for the student centre, right in the middle of the two extremes. Of course, that won’t happen until construction is set to begin.
Regardless of how much money the TCSA and the university are actually able to gather for the project, I think it should be a top priority to avoid building something that at all resembles the nightmare that is the DNA Building.
The student centre shouldn’t try to recreate the style of Ron Thom’s architecture—50 years later that would come off as pandering at best—but it should try to emulate its ethos and do something risky, something inspiring.
The last thing this campus needs is another large metal shoebox painted some bright colour, especially if it’s going to end up right next to the library.
This campus is renowned for its architecture, and every new construction should be built with that in mind.
Of course, students didn’t vote in favour of a building whose lavish architecture is a red herring for its empty interior. The TCSA needs to deliver on its promises as to what will be inside—that aspect of the building was what the referendum pitch most concerned.
But if that can’t be achieved without putting up a second DNA Building, then we need to ask ourselves if it’s really worth it after all.
This is a creative place, and I think our student centre should embody that sense of creativity.