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Designs Are Finalized As Reading Room May at Last Be Renovated

By Diana Jue

The fifth floor Student Center reading room, basically unchanged since its inception in 1965, may soon undergo new construction.

New plans for the renovation of the Student Center fifth floor reading room are currently being reviewed by students before they are finalized by architects and submitted by the Division of Student Life to the Committee for the Review of Space Planning.

Renovations include the addition of a lounge and ID-activated lockers in the entry area, according to floor and design plans by Signer Harris Architects. New lighting fixtures and retractable shades are also a part of the plan. The carpet and all the chairs will be replaced.

“The intent is to make it more airy,” said Undergraduate Association Senate Speaker Andrew T. Lukmann ’07.

An acoustically sealed partition will divide the room into two sections. One section is for group study for four to six people, sound-proof work rooms, and an open work area. The other section is for individual studying with desks that convert into library-like carrels.

The architects brought their plans before the Campus Activities Complex advisory board to ask for feedback on Monday, Oct. 17. Student representatives from the Undergraduate Association, Association for Student Activities, Musical Theatre Guild, Lecture Series Committee, and Panhellenic Association are currently asking for student feedback.

The project will be matched with a budget number that should be decided within the next week, said Phillip J. Walsh, Director of Campus Activities Complex. MIT Facilities has been getting estimates.

The original ceiling estimate for reading room renovations was $1.5 million, said Claude R. Canizares, associate provost and CRSP chair. The current plans are expected to cost an amount within the budget. If students make no major changes to the current plan, renovations will consume 5.7 percent of the $19.5 million budget designated to CRSP, which is a “significant part,” he said.

Construction of MIT facilities typically occurs in the summer, but no plans have yet been set.

MIT students have contributed their ideas for reading room renovations since the first renovation was proposed by the UA to the DSL and CAC in December 2002. Students have specifically advocated for the creation of group study areas.

The DSL submitted a renovation proposal to CRSP in 2003 for the fiscal year 2004 budget, but the project was deferred because “budget clouds were forming overhead at the time,” Walsh said. The budget was resubmitted next year and received minimum funding so that a formal plan could be developed.

The project “finally got off the ground” in the beginning of 2005, Walsh said. A small group composed of Walsh and three other MIT staff members was created to coordinate three activities that would provide the architects with input: the CAC advisory board, a group of Institute staff with “experience in group study space,” and in May 2005, a feedback session with students in the Student Center game room.

The reading room has been a part of the Student Center since its construction in 1965, when it was used as a resource library. It is equipped with its original furnishings, Walsh said.

“This is definitely an opportunity now for people to comment on the plan,” said Lukmann. He asks for students to contact their UA senators for details.

Walsh hopes that there will not be too many modifications such that “we need to go back to the drawing board” because it is “not the right time.” He said that the plans “need validation.”

Canizares said that renovating the reading room was a “high priority three years ago. We’d like to make it happen.”