March 14, 2021

CHEN | A Letter To Duffield Atrium

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After a quick morning Zoom class in my dorm room or a hefty dinner and bubble tea from Collegetown, I can typically be found climbing my way back to the engineering quadrangle and opening the partially transparent doors to the humble abode that has become my second home. I definitely am not alone — the simultaneous relief and motivation that sitting in Duffield gives me is a drug that hooks every engineer immediately after their first semester at Cornell. I will take this to my grave and to every life I am reborn into afterwards: If there was housing connected to Duffield, I would not hesitate to live there. 

The Duffield-Upson-Phillips conglomerate is clearly the shining star of the engineering quad. While the other surrounding buildings may be a classic brick and mortar structure, my second home glimmers in the sunlight in all of its silver glory. As the sun streams into the atrium, the students sitting there are refueled by probably their only source of vitamin D. The atrium’s floor-to-ceiling windows are not only stunning to look at but also completely functional for the wellbeing of all the struggling students inside. 

Within its walls, the various seating arrangements can also cater to almost any type of study session. If you need to work with a group and explain your thoughts via white boards, you can find an alcove nearer to the Campus Road entrance. 

If you want to study in solitude and stare at a wall, there are plenty of individual tables near Mattin’s that have enabled me to focus for hours on end. 

Even if you just want a collaborative space to sit with friends, but you have no need to shelter yourself off from others, the open atrium is the perfect place to get some work done and show a meme to your friend every once in a while. 

If you have any Zoom meetings or classes interrupting your full day of prelim-cramming, those can be accommodated for as well. The lobby ambience makes talking out loud to your computer comfortable. Any type of work that you’re looking to get done, you can get it done there.

You can stay there for as long as you want too. Clean bathrooms and water fountains are within reach, and Mattin’s Cafe can satisfy all of your food cravings. Whether you’re in the mood for a light Italian vegetarian soup or a helping of Sweet Chili boneless chicken wings, food from this cafe can last you the entire day. You never have to abandon your precious seat when it’s mealtime again. Ordering the breakfast sausage, egg, and cheese on an English muffin on GET before I start to walk to Duffield in the morning never fails to lift my mood and kick off my day right, even in a majority-online semester.

Knowing the space before and after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Duffield has still maintained a sense of normalcy that can’t be found in other libraries and study spaces on campus. While the tables have become more spaced out in certain areas and the number of chairs has been limited, we’re still able to use it as a coffee chat spot and wander around the building to search for a seat like we would in a normal semester. An afternoon in this place doesn’t require a reservation made the day before or the fear of getting kicked out in the middle of your online prelim. 

The lack of reservations is mostly beneficial for me, who isn’t always prompt on arriving at a place at a certain time and prefers to see the mood before jumping into doing work. This leads to my only qualm with this building in all of the time I have been at Cornell: the leg workout you get while scouring each and every seat to find a table to settle at for the rest of the day. 

On the weekends, trying to find a seat is like trying to find the needle in a haystack. Finding one near an outlet and with adequate table space is absolutely golden. That being said, I personally have never had a scenario where I completely could not find a spot to sit. You may be stuck walking around for a few minutes and doubling back when you see someone starting to pack up, but Duffield has always got your back. 

If you weren’t sold before, you should take it upon yourself to explore the area and sit in the sunny Duffield Atrium on a nice day. It’s the consistency and reliability that the space provides that keeps me coming back for more. When productivity hits anytime in the 24 hours of the day and I need a place to work, I know that the engineering quad will always be able to provide for me.

On another note, maybe I shouldn’t keep preaching this study space. The more people that I bring into Duffield, the harder it’ll be for me to find a seat during busy hours — so feel free to scope out the scene anytime after 6PM, but not before. 

Jonna Chen is a sophomore in the College of Engineering. She can be reached at jc2627@cornell.edu. jonna.write() runs every other Monday this semester.