Following a recent student vote against a proposed redesign project of the student theater lounge addition to the Memorial Union, members of the Memorial Union Reinvestment Design Committee considered their next steps in moving the project forward at a meeting Tuesday night.
The Associated Students of Madison referendum asked students to vote on the proposed glass extension to the existing theater in the Memorial Union and found a majority of students voicing opinions against the proposal. The committee is now faced with options to move forward with renovations that coordinate with what students want and the preservation of the historic building. Speakers laid out concerns during the meeting’s open forum with an overwhelming sentiment among speakers in support of the student vote rejecting the lounge design and favoring protection of the building’s architectural integrity.
Speaking against the referendum, Dierk Polzin, who has been an employee at the Memorial Union for 35 years, said the committee’s redesign proposal was overreaching.
“[The committee] overstepped with the Union Terrace ‘glass box,’ and I think that was pretty obvious with the student referendum,” he said.
The results showed students voted down the lounge design with 50.24 percent support.
One option presented by Student Project Manager Colin Plunkett was to revisit the plan presented in the 2006 referendum that would have erected a glass wall under the current canopy.
Committee member John Staley, who serves as a University of Wisconsin faculty and staff representative, proposed the possibility of moving the existing glass of the building outward to keep the same lines and shape of the building as is.
Union Associate Director Hank Walter said the new plan should incorporate better accessibility to the theater balcony on the second floor. Currently the balcony is inaccessible to students and faculty, remaining locked except for private events. UW students and committee members Katie Ruocco and John Skic voiced their concern in regards to study space for students.
While Skic said it is important to have adequate space for students, Ruocco questioned whether the space will be somewhere students think of when they need a place to study and to what extent students would be made aware of the space.
Tom Smith, UW Alumni Representative for the committee, raised further concern for the functionality of the lounge.
“The theater has never had adequate space with regard to refreshments during intermission … if that’s being thrown out the door it’s a waste of money and resources,” he said.
Walter agreed, arguing refreshments were not expected as part of the theater experience in the 1930s when the current design was drawn up, but said that expectation has since changed.
Design principal Del Wilson spoke to the committee about options available in a new design and the relationship of the existing building with an addition.
He suggested that variations be designed for the current proposed plan and that by looking into alternatives, the renovation would cost less money to build. In a meeting with the campus architect, Wilson discussed letting the curve of the building be exposed and reducing the square footage of the design. The committee closed the meeting after deciding more alternative plans would be drawn up to incorporate the suggestions made Tuesday night.