We’ve all felt the familiar sense of disappointment walking into the Intercultural Center. We’ve felt frustration from looking around at furniture and designs that feel like leftovers from the ’80s and concern about the failing state of this building, especially given that it serves as the home for the School of Foreign Service, and is representative of our school to all who visit.
Even though there is a long-term plan for overhauling the ICC, it requires many more years of fundraising and will not be feasible during our time as undergraduates. But, as current students, we deserve a building that helps us engage in the academic and extracurricular aspects of our college careers. At a basic level, we deserve functioning facilities and better study spaces. In the short term, Georgetown University students and administration must work together and take small, practical steps to make the ICC a better space.
As a class of 2021 representative on the SFS Academic Council, I’ve heard my peers complain endlessly about how the ICC needs to be improved. During the last semester, to tackle this issue, I’ve been a part of a working group focused on short-term ICC renovations, with the goal of completing renovations by fall 2019.
This working group includes representatives from the provost’s office, the SFS dean’s office, the More Uncommon Grounds coffee shop, the architecture firm SmithGroup and other relevant stakeholders. Though significant renovations require more time to plan and execute, this group is focused on finding the most meaningful alterations that can be made to make the ICC a more pleasant space. Specifically, we’ve focused on three key concerns: furniture, lighting and noise. However, continuous efforts are necessary to make the ICC a better space.
Both the ICC galleria and the areas in front of elevators on each floor have furniture that inadequately uses the available space. The galleria currently has four tables near the entrance, four sofas near the middle and four long tables near MUG. Along with being outdated, this furniture does not suit the size and purpose of the galleria, a large public space that should serve as the central hub of the SFS.
With the current layout and furniture, students looking to work have to either sit at crowded tables or on sofas, with little personal space and room to work comfortably, and a lack of access to electric outlets. Even students looking to have personal conversations don’t have the space to do so with the current couches and table layout, since they will likely be arm-to-arm with a stranger. Instead, this space needs more individualized seating or small tables positioned around the galleria to increase the capacity of the space and make it more conducive to studying or group interactions.
The galleria is also infamous for being extremely poorly lit. With poor natural light due to the uncleaned skylights, along with a lack of artificial lighting, the space becomes quite inhospitable once it becomes dark outside. Especially during the winter season, it becomes difficult to work in the galleria in the evening or night. More artificial and natural lighting is necessary to make the building a better space.
Lastly, the noise in the galleria makes the environment even less conducive to studying or social purposes. The hard tile floors and glass walls on both sides cause noise to easily bounce off, amplifying sounds from footsteps and conversations to the rest of the galleria. Therefore, either sound padding on the walls or carpets on the floor would be useful in minimizing this concern.
Clearly, the ICC has more than its fair share of problems, and, in the long term, it will be necessary to overhaul the building and redesign a space that can better support the student body. However, just because this overhaul will take years of fundraising doesn’t mean that improvements shouldn’t be made in the near future. Students and administration should continue working together in the short term to make the ICC a better and more functional space. Small changes and improvements, ranging from replacing furniture to improving lighting, can go a long way.
Siddharth Muchhal is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service.