Many times people are placed within architecture solely based on a need for space. This strong need for space takes precedence over the purpose and function of the people that are moving into a space or piece of architecture. By not considering the user group and functions, architecture and design most often will inhibit the inhabitants. As an unfortunate inhabitant of McNeal Hall and a frequent user of Rapson Hall, I am able to view the effects that architecture and design have on its users.
McNeal Hall is comprised of 2 separate buildings, connected by the construction of a third between them. Though physically connected by form and materials, they are disconnected visually and physically between area of study and department. Disciplines are spread throughout the massive complex and are, in a sense, segregated from one another.
Segregation occurs through arrangement of space. Each department has its own area of the building where they take all of their courses and, more often than not, do not have any need or want to go into the areas of the other majors. The only places where all disciplines come together are in the computer lab (even within the computer lab there is separation of majors to specific labs), the atrium space (this space does not act as an area of integration as it serves simply as a space for passing through and does not provide space for work or interaction), and in the color, drawing, and auditorium spaces (the spaces are only integrated for pre-design courses and 1000 level classes). Because of this division of space, interaction is hindered drastically, between disciplines and majors themselves.
Caused by a lack of open area, electrical outlets, surfaces, and a poor wireless connection in some areas there are no spaces within McNeal Hall where people can spread out and work. This in turn is reflected in the amount of time people spend within the building. After 5:00 on a weekday, the building is cleared out, minus a few students around for a late night class. On the weekends it is rare to see more than 2-3 people in the building.
Interior Design, my area of study, is located on the fourth floor. Our given ‘area’ within McNeal hall is essentially a dark, dead-end in appearance corridor. As the only occupant of the fourth floor, it is very cut off from the rest of the building and users which make it seem very unsafe and scary to the point that no one works in the studios or hangs around later than they have to. The studios themselves might as well be auditoriums for the fact that their users just go into them during class time, listen to a professor, and then leave. Not much interaction or design work occurs within these spaces at all. Over the span the of my sophomore, junior, and senior years in the Interior Design program, I have probably spent a total of about 2 weeks in the studios, outside of the required class time.
Due to these adverse conditions within McNeal Hall and since the joining of the colleges, I have become a squatter in Rapson Hall. You will see me there for hours on end, ordering in food, spreading out on multiple tables, and pinning up my ideas and sketches as if the courtyard space were my studio. Rapson Hall has all of the aspects that McNeal Hall lacks, such as ample workspace, view of and the ability to interact with other disciplines within a common environment, display areas, a sense of security, and the feelings of a small community. This environment truly fosters creativity, new ways of thinking, interaction, and integration.
As design students we should have the opportunity to inhabit and affect out environment, but within the confines of McNeal hall, are not given this. It is amazing the effects that architecture and the designed environment have on their users. McNeal hall inhibits its users and the expansion and implementation of the teachings that occur within its walls.
As a College of Design we are prime candidates for creating new ways of thinking and designing through collaboration (which occurs in the workplace), joining of strengths and weaknesses, and through the interaction of thoughts and ideas. This is the ideal that as a student I believe is what we should be striving for, but something that no one is working or pushing for. This truly starts with the spaces that it’s majors and students inhabit, or try to.