Preliminary, renovation floor plans of the terrace of Willard Straight Hall strive to turn the space into a community area.

Courtesy of Daniel Correa '19

Preliminary, renovation floor plans of the terrace of Willard Straight Hall strive to turn the space into a community area.

March 30, 2018

Student-Led Project Hopes to Revitalize Willard Straight Hall Terrace

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The Student Assembly Infrastructure Fund Commission recently approved funding for a new project titled “The Straight Edge” that aims to update the 7,000 square foot Willard Straight Hall Terrace into a “unprogrammed community space,” according to Daniel Correa ’19.

The $40,000 funding furthers the efforts of an undergraduate student-based project team of 10 people from various disciplines including architecture, engineering, hotel administration and finance.

The area “has been very neglected, abandoned and has had a lot of deferred maintenance with the same furniture that has been there since they put the terrace up,” Correa, one of the project team members, told The Sun. “It’s rusted, uninviting, and very heavy to move.”

The project began a year ago and stemmed from the realization that “our campus lacks a true unprogrammed community space,” Correa said.

“If you want a space on campus to find a welcoming community oasis outside your own department, it doesn’t exist for you,” Correa explained. “People tend to stay within their own department. Architecture students in the Arts Quad, CALS students stay in [the] AG Quad, engineering students, in the Engineering Quad.”

The team made and pitched a proposal to the S.A. Infrastructure Fund with an outline of the anticipated phases of the project, as well as evidence and data proving that this project would be a feasible and desired development.

To do this, the team “created renderings, floor plans and conducted user experience research derived from student input on different layouts and configurations,” Correa said.

Correa said he and his team hope to make the Willard Straight rooftop a “bridge of two worlds: work and play,” transforming it into “a campus community nexus, a place where one can go for purposes outside of academic work. We want the off campus feel on campus.”

“[The project] addresses the unhealthy dichotomy between work and play at Cornell, where recreation too often exists exclusively beyond the campus barriers, and invites students and faculty to enjoy moments of leisure and social discourse within the boundaries of our working environment,” he said.

Correa also noted the historical significance of Willard Straight for this type of space.

Willard Straight is a “notable building, one of the first buildings in American high academia that allocated no square footage to faculty, teaching and instruction,” he said. “It was [and is] purely a building for students’ life.”

The team is also planning a week long pop-up event in which planners will simulate the spatial intervention.

The plan for the project includes “an amphitheater type space, banquet seating, a bar, lounge style modular furniture and public art exhibitions [in the lounge section],” according to Correa.

The project is set to occur in phases, Correa said. Phase one of the project, which has been approved and partially funded, will be exclusively related to the integration of furniture within the space and should be completed by the beginning of Fall 2018, according to Correa.

Phases two and three, which are in talks at this time, will involve lighting elements and a removable canopy or covering system so that students may use the space in the winter time.

While phase one of the project is currently being implemented, Correa noted that phases two and three will be “contingent upon the results of the pop-up simulation for the project.”

The project has garnered strong support amongst various sectors of the administration, according to Correa.

“In terms of running into barriers, every time we pitched this to an administrator, a professor, a faculty member, they really loved it,” he said. “The idea has been so unanimously well received … anywhere we thought we were going to have resistance, we saw an open door.”

However, Sedgwick Business Interiors, an interior design and furniture distributing company for office and public spaces, estimates that it will cost around $100,000 to furnish the entire space, according to Correa.

Given that the S.A. has granted $40,000 for the plans, additional funding is needed from the University, Correa said.

“We are hoping that the University can match [the S.A.] funds … it is up to the University to help vet this. We are working on that,” he said.

The project team will also be hosting a community design charrette on April 12 at Milstein Hall at 7:30 p.m. in order for the community and student body to provide input on the up-and-coming project.

“This had the hands of many students and faculty members,” Correa said. “It is truly a space for students by students, for the community by the community. Everything has been done in this regard.”