Trying to find a little personal space
Behold SAIT campus in all its mortared glory; explore squat brown buildings scattered about like a child’s Lego blocks. Now, in the oppressive dark of winter, buildings like Thomas Riley, Senator Patrick Burns, and John Ware sit under a gray dusting of snow with none of the notoriety of their namesakes. Instead, they loom like gloomy, forlorn structures built with all the charm of 1970s Russian architecture.
And while the skeleton of the new Trades and Technology building promises to bring some appeal to campus esthetics, all things considered, the exterior of SAIT campus is ugly enough to make the Sushi BBQ Inn plaza across 16 Avenue look magical. Apparently, the pride that went into the construction of majestic Heritage Hall 90 years ago could not be repeated for the rest of the century.
Despite SAIT’s exterior lacking glamour, I believe the student body would unanimously say it is the inside that truly needs improvement. SAIT enrolls 12,000 full-time students annually but appears to have been built for 7,000, all of whom apparently love the colour brown. There’s very little student space and what little there is looks uglier than Grandma’s shag carpet.
Exhibit A: the Heart building. One might think that the campus building that contains both the library and food court would be the “heart” of campus. This building, however, must have been named for its location because it is anything but the heart. That’s because any student who wishes to socialize, study or eat in the building is forced to do so while wandering congested hallways, following the overhead cords and pipes like a rat. Oh sure, there’s a huge atrium, but finding a day when it isn’t filled with tables for some gala, exhibition or demonstration is like finding a day when all the escalators are working.
Students looking for free space often jam into the library, bringing food and noise with them. Or, they may wander into the Thomas Riley, an experience that one female student described as the equivalent of sending a “deer into a pack of wolves.”
There are some bright spots, however. Those small, sponsored study areas on the south end of the Heart building contain lamps, nice chairs, internet plug-ins and even carpeted floors. Aesthetically pleasing, practical and conveniently located, these are the perfect examples of the student spaces that are few and far between. Unfortunately, they’re always packed, but if you’re lucky enough to snag a table it’s nice to spend some time in an area that doesn’t feel like an old bingo hall.
I hope SAIT administration had the foresight to include more oases like these in the new buildings. Looking at the outside, they’ve managed to branch out from working with good old brick, so that’s encouraging. But until those buildings open, look for me scurrying around the basement of the Burns, nibbling on my sandwich and looking for some open floor space to spread out my notes.