by julie whyte, 4th year b.s. architecture
Disbelief. Anger. Determination. This can’t be happening. How could they do this to us? What can we do? These were my initial reactions upon hearing the dreaded news that the May 4th Initiative would be taking over the first floor Architecture/ Interior Design computer lab.
This reaction may seem extreme to some, but we as Architecture and Interior Design students know how imperative the computer lab is to our education. AutoCAD, Revit Architecture, Revit MEP, Autodesk Maya, Virtual Environment, Photoshop CS3, Ecotect- these are just a handful of computer programs that the computer lab provides for students that allow them to complete class work. Although some students may have these programs on their own computers, many students cannot afford to equip their computers with all these expensive programs. Many students’ computers have trouble running the new version of Revit (Revit Architecture 2010). To top it off, my computer can barely open Internet Explorer. As a result, running Revit and Photoshop is clearly out of the question. While the computer lab may be just a lab to some, we as students know that it is so much more.
The Kent Stater recently ran an article conveying the facts about the whole ordeal. Laura Davis, ex-associate provost of Kent State, is spear-heading this project. After e-mailing her several times in the attempt to yield some answers (and most likely ensuring the placement of my name on a blacklist somewhere), I was assured that arrangements would me made well in advance to move our computer lab to a different location.
This was of some comfort, but this “solution” is still not addressing the fundamental problem. The College of Architecture is already distributed between three different buildings. The adjacency of the computer lab, digital commons, and the graduate studio creates one of the few scenarios where the space encourages social interactions. Aren’t we taught that communication and collaboration are essential to our careers as designers? Yet, the 4th years are isolated in Tri-Towers, 3rd years and I.D. students confined to the Gym Annex, and 1st and 2nd years sectioned off in Taylor Hall. The computer lab and digital commons area present a rare situation where students of different years can interact with one another. In addition to the social benefits, the digital commons contains the printers and scanners that are necessary to be in adjacency with the computer lab for the sake of efficiency. If the computer lab is eliminated from this conglomeration, the digital commons becomes utterly obsolete.
I realize there is no easy solution here. Mike Turk, 4th year Architecture major and the College of Architecture’s Senator for the Undergraduate Student Senate, has worked towards finding an alternate solution. He came up with the idea of utilizing the office space in Taylor Hall facing the hill rather than digging the Visitor’s Center deeper into the core of Taylor Hall and knocking out the computer lab. The May 4th Task Force was responsive to this design alternative, but the May 4th Initiative (the organization that has the power in this scenario) was not. But, since a lack of funds is stalling project’s implementation, we are given a window of opportunity. One of my initial questions is still pertinent. What can we do? We are designers, after all. Isn’t it our task to be problem-solvers? How can we stop one of the best amenities in our College from being inextricably torn away from us? And, if we can’t stop this demolition of our space, what collaborative measures are going to be taken by the College of Architecture and the May 4th Initiative to ensure that we still have access to the facilities that we need?