The new half of the Student Union opened recently. Red brick facade, white accents, shimmering floor-to-ceiling windows and glimmering floors. The space sure looks nice and new but is one of the most frustrating things about this campus.
Over the past five years, I have seen a lot of completed construction projects: Innovation Hub, The Pavilion, three residence halls, four Greek life buildings, the Honors College, Coulter, Gillom, Rebel Market and two parking garages, to name a few. It seems to me the design of new buildings has been getting worse and worse. They strive to appease aesthetics but forget the human interaction with the space. Bathrooms are hidden in the CME. Columns block stairwells in The Pavilion. The new Honors College is now the least intuitive study space.
I had anticipated the new Union, excited for more options and a better layout. Somehow the new design has not only limited our options but also made traffic worse. We complained about the flow of traffic in the old space; one would think it would be a main focus for the new space. Visitors have an option to walk into walls or break through lines. Instead of implementing efficient design concepts adopted by many campuses or indoor malls, architects chose straight lines with limited waiting space that bleeds into seating areas.
Before attending the University of Mississippi, I wanted to be an architect. I focused on how people experienced their surroundings. How would people walk, rest, eat and study. During my engineering co-op, I used computer simulations to resemble manufacturing processes, taking into consideration queues, cycle times and organization. The software I used was commonly used by architects for traffic flow in public spaces such as rail stations, airports and schools. How did these professionals get it so wrong?
Poor design is only one of the reasons I have lost respect for this university. Right next to blatant hypocrisy and hedonism. The students have accepted university administration does not exist with the student interest in mind. Our reputation and academics are mocked. Our one claim to fame, the Grove, is regularly abused and only wins us “most beautiful campus” because of an egotistical echo chamber that floods national surveys. Like the surrounding community, the university has an overwhelming obsession with physical appearance rather than quality culture. By allowing poor designs, the university only adds to the many things making us worse, not better. If we keep building this trend, we are spending many millions on physical monuments to our ignorance.
Bryce Johnson is a senior mechanical engineering major from Collierville, Tennessee.