Renovations to the Bryan Center will soon be underway, forcing several student organizations to find temporary space in the meantime.
The renovation plans are part of the University’s larger project, which comprises the construction of an events pavilion—located west of the Bryan Center near Union Drive and Towerview Road—and renovations to the West Union Building.
Renovations of the Bryan Center are scheduled to be completed summer 2013, said Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta. The University received $80 million to fund its construction projects from the Duke Endowment in March 2011.
“For the most part, a lot of the renovations [in the Bryan Center] are to accommodate the dislocation of functions of the West Union,” Moneta said. “However, this was not simply prompted as a refresh—given the opportunity, we are also taking advantage of the opportunity to get the building aligned correctly.”
The construction began in September with the relocation of the Computer Store into the Duke University Store and will continue out in phases, beginning with renovations on the middle level of the Bryan Center. The middle center currently comprises the post office, McDonald’s and Griffith Film Theater.
Although all parts of the student center will be affected by the construction, the majority of structural alterations will occur on this level, noted Steve Nowicki, dean and vice provost of undergraduate education. He added that major construction will begin in the middle of December, during which the middle level will be cleared out and labeled a “demolition area.”
Renovation of the lower and upper levels will follow, prompting several student organizations to temporarily relocate.
“It was a matter of the need to consider swing space for when we empty out the West Union,” Nowicki said.
Until the completion of the Bryan Center, the Duke Student Government will take up space in the West Union and the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life will occupy the building on Campus Drive that was previously home to the International House. Nowicki noted that the administration wanted to avoid situations where important organizations were relocated to obscure spaces, thereby decreasing their visibility and access to the community, citing the relocation of the Women’s Center to Alexander Avenue during the renovations of Few Quad in 2008.
Changing a ‘cavernous space’
The Bryan Center provides much needed space for student organizations, not accounted for in the events pavilion and the West Union renovations Discussions of the West Union renovations last Fall brought forth the issue of providing permanent space for student organizations, specifically the Center for LGBT Life and the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture, both currently located in the West Union.
In order to create a communal space, the renovated West Union will be comprised of shared spaces, Nowicki said, adding that specific organizations would not be able to “own” spaces within the building. As such, the need to find homes for the displaced units in the West Union renovations prompted administrators to take into account the potential of the Bryan Center.
Both Moneta and Nowicki noted that since its inception, the Bryan Center has not met its expectations as a student center.
“It has always just been an open, chilly, cavernous space that is not used effectively,” Nowicki noted. “The new renovations are going to reclaim a lot of the space and transform it into homes for the student organizations that need permanent space.”
The vision for the three buildings align with the overall University goal of fostering a greater sense of space for the typical Duke student, Nowicki said.
“There are three spaces in our lives—the space in which we live, the space in which we work and the space in which we play and interact with others in the community,” he said. “You have to think about how a pluralistic community works.”
What the Duke student life lacks is the latter sphere—a provided space where a student can freely intermingle across groups, Nowicki said, adding that the University has been successful in providing “fabulous and innovative” places in which students can work and live. He referenced the newly-constructed Keohane Quadrangle 4E as well as the Bostock Library.
The reallocation of space for student organizations will allow the University Center Activities and Events to centralize most of its offices in the Bryan Center, facilitating communication among its departments and with students, said UCAE director Chris Roby.
The West Union project will allow the UCAE, which is currently located on all three levels of the Bryan Center, to concentrate most of its offices on the middle level.
“When we think of the endpoint—when West Union can become the student space that is flexible and versatile, when the events pavilion becomes the grand ballroom that Duke has never had and when the Bryan Center finally offers specific space for students—the culmination of all this brings into alignment the needs and vision for student organizations and the typical student,” Nowicki said.