Klarman Hall's atrium at night, pictured in 2016.

Sun File Photo

Klarman Hall's atrium at night, pictured in 2016.

November 24, 2019

Design Project Attempts to Reimagine Klarman for More ‘Diversity and Inclusivity’

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The popular Klarman Hall Atrium is always full of students studying and collaborating or sipping coffee from the Temple of Zeus — but that means many Cornellians have experienced the Klarman Hall runaround when they struggle a place to sit during its busiest hours.

The Medium Design collective’s newest project — the “Reimagine the Design” pop-up installation series — hopes to improve common spaces like Klarman Atrium by crowdsourcing solutions from students.

“It’s an idea of bringing our design conversation to more people, because this year we are focusing on talking about diversity and inclusivity,” Medium Collective editorial team leader Mollie Zhang ’22 told the Sun. “It makes sense to have more people involved in the conversation to foster it, otherwise we won’t have enough perspectives coming in.”

The project aims to cover all seven colleges as a part of a larger series dedicated to reimagining Cornell’s most popular student sites. This semester, it has its sights set on Klarman Atrium, Duffield Atrium and Fanny’s at Green Dragon.

Having run for only a week, the project — including trifolds with blank space for students to write in their suggestions — has already received what Zhang called an “overwhelming” number of responses, reflecting how strongly students feel about the buildings in which they spend much of their week.

“Duffield is the one that has received most of the responses. We’ve gotten about 25 to 35 in two days of displaying it, which is pretty scary,” Zhang said. “People have a lot of opinions.”

This responses from the project will be published in Medium Design Collective’s annual magazine, in the hopes of encouraging in conversations about design.

Although the project has gotten a lot of opinions, Medium Collective hasn’t gotten all of the responses they would like, according to Zhang. With the goal of making these spaces more diverse and acceptable, many of the responses have been about having more outlets and tables to study.

Zhang told the Sun, “A lot of the conversations inside our club was more so pulled around accommodating for disabled people or underrepresented minorities and we are trying to think about how to get that input in.”

Different voices mean different ideas, and although there were numerous responses, Medium knew not to expect just one idea.

“This uniform opinion is not expected, or is expected. Reading through them, I also feel like this is what I struggle with when I come into this place. I think the initial intention of bringing in different perspectives was to see [what] this building lacks in terms of needs that are …  underrepresented,” Zhang told the Sun.

The project hopes to someday bring these opinions to the Cornell administration, although right now they are focusing on getting the responses and trying to bring design to more people.

“We want to see more students who originally didn’t like the space to come in and feel like ‘Oh, my needs are satisfied. This design is improved, and me who originally didn’t like this space can also use this space,’” Zhang said.