Douglas Steidl was all smiles Wednesday morning.
After months of internal talks, the dean of the College of Architecture and Environmental Design finally got to speak publicly about plans for a new, $40 million architecture building as part of to the Kent campus.
Steidl said a new architecture building has been talked about among university administrators for months as part of the campus renovation, but it wasn't until about six months ago the decision to build it became final.
"It’s been an off-and-on and off-and-on process," Steidl said. “We’ve been excited ever since, and yet (it was) sort of an inside story as opposed to an outside story. Today it becomes an outside story."
University officials talked about the new architecture college and major campus construction plans during an open house held on the Kent campus Wednesday morning.
Placards and huge banners filled the Kent State Student Center Ballroom to give students, faculty and staff a preview of the millions in dollars of construction planned for the next four to five years.
University trustees voted in March to approve issuing $170 million in bonds to pay for all the renovations, but absent at the time were detailed plans about what new buildings would be built or existing structures renovated how and when. In September, trustees will vote on the more detailed plans that were previewed Wednesday.
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Location, location, location
The new architecture building will stand on , the wide pedestrian pathway under construction that will link the campus to downtown Kent, far away from the building.
Tom Euclide, Kent State's associate vice president for facilities planning and operation, said the new building will stand near South Willow Street — and may even stradle the road in some way — and south and to the east of a new archway that will mark the campus entrance to the Esplanade.
Euclide said the university has to build the footprint of the new, $40 million college.
"There's a couple other parcels we would like to have to create the lawn and front door presence, and we'll keep on working at that," he said. "But if we didn't get that we still have a good site for building a building.
"It's not taking away Starbucks," Euclide said. "There were some people questioning whether we are tearing that down. It's not a property we own or plan on owning."
When finished, the new college will be visible from Haymaker Parkway as pedestrians and motorists look east towards campus.
Steidl said he's excited to develop the architecture college into a gateway to the university.
"Great location. Couldn’t be better," Steidl said. "Everybody that walks from the campus to downtown is going to go right by it. So we’re looking at exibition spaces for student work, noted people and artists' work — an exhibition area we hope will face the Esplanade."
Kent State's architecture program has earned national and world renown.
And its extension campus in downtown Cleveland, the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, has distinguished itself locally having earned an American Institute of Architects (AIA) Ohio Design Award in 2011.
Euclide said the location so close to downtown Kent will further the city's redevelopment goal of fostering traffic between campus and the city center.
"We wanted to put it at the front door of the university," he said. "Urban development, urban design is all part of their teaching. So putting it right here where you'll be able to drive by and look down the Esplanade is a key component of our thought process of how to elevate this very good program at Kent State to what it needs to be."
Most current architecture students at Kent State may never take a class in the new building.
The targeted opening date of the new building is the fall of 2015.
The university has already requested, and received, design qualifications from architecture firms for the project.
Steidl said they received proposals from 36 firms, including nationally and globally recognized designers from as far away as London, California and New York. See the entire list on the .pdf file attached to this article.
Euclide said the building will go through a design competition process instead of the usual design-build process.
"That design competition will probably take until late winter when we have a designer selected and a look of the building," he said.
Actual construction may not start for another 18 months.
Unifying the college
Right now, architecture students and faculty are spread out in three locations across the Kent campus. Students study, attend lectures and work on class projects in Taylor Hall, the MACC Annex and in the rotunda of the Tri-Towers residence hall.
Steidl said he wants to see open seating areas and lounges in the new building that will facilitate peer-to-peer design collaboration — something the existing architecture spaces fall short of doing.
"We want the building to be a teaching aide," Steidl said. "A faculty member can say, ‘That’s a steel connection. That’s bolted. That’s welded.' (Students) can see conduit, fire alarm wires, the things that go into a building that are normally hidden.
He also expects the building will have highly finished areas for the public, such as the potential exhibition space.
"We have nowhere in our current buildings where casual conversations just occur because there's a nice area where people meet and sit down in an informal fashion one-on-one," he said. "In the design professions, peer-to-peer learning is so important.
"We’re just as excited as can be because it’s becoming a reality, and we need the reality for a program that’s really been recognized nationally," Steidl said.