Some months ago, Rochester Institute of Technology officially opened the university’s $120 million Student Hall for Exploration and Development–a project that was not only large in size and scope, but also in campus collaboration.
More than 150 people were involved in envisioning and making the space come to life, says Tiffany Brodner, executive director of the SHED. Add labor to the mix and the number crosses the 200 mark.
“It has been an absolute pleasure being a part of RIT history with the SHED,” Brodner says. “Our students quickly understood the impact this place will have for years to come and are filling out spaces quickly. We have an incredible team of staff who are ready to serve and take on the obstacles that come our way. It’s been a blast!”
Termed a creative hub, the 120,000-square-foot SHED has a mix of spaces for makers and performers. With the goal of fostering creativity and innovation, it is expected to give students a chance to explore, imagine and build, across nine colleges. Student work and activities will be displayed throughout the year.
Here are a few highlights of the SHED:
■ A four-story atrium for the RIT community, visitors and prospective students.
■ Sklarsky Glass Box Theater: A theater (with 180 seats) and exhibit space that features a host of amenities including multilevel viewpoints and retractable floor seating.
■ Showcase for student clubs and teams and guest makers-in-residence. The Brooks H. Bower Maker Showcase has a flexible configuration for experiential learning opportunities.
■ Instructional space that adds 27 new classroom spaces with more than 1,500 additional seats. These active learning areas have the latest in video technology, large projection screens and flexible furniture.
■ The RIT ASL and Deaf Studies Community Center: a gathering and learning spot for students, faculty and staff to learn about Deaf culture and heritage and the American Sign Language.
With its flexible design and possibilities for both students and faculty, the SHED could help with recruitment of students and faculty, Brodner notes.
“The current generation of students isn’t interested in just one thing,” Brodner says. “They don’t lock into one area of interest and aren’t fixed in their thinking. The same goes for the SHED. The possibilities are endless and we are seeing a new generation of both faculty and students who are learners, tinkerers, makers, performers and inventors.”
The Rochester Beacon posed a few questions to Brodner. Her responses are below.
ROCHESTER BEACON: The SHED is unlike any other building on campus. Why did RIT decide this was the way to go?
TIFFANY BRODNER: While I was not a part of the design conversations and decisions, there are so many amazing things happening at RIT within our facilities. There is an absolute reason we say we are always on to something amazing. With the design of the SHED and all the glass walls and windows, we hope to provide a level of transparency. We want this work to be on display for all to see. We desire folks to come into this space and be curious, try something new and leave with an understanding of all things RIT.
ROCHESTER BEACON: In your opinion, what are some of the SHED’s best attributes?
BRODNER: The SHED highlights all areas that RIT is well known for. It serves as the intersection of technology, the arts and design and its location at the heart of the campus could not be more fitting. It purposely brings multiple disciplines under one roof and has flexible spaces that foster and stimulate creativity, collaboration, and discovery. We are sandwiched between the Wallace Library (curricular) and the Student Alumni Union (co-curricular). We know that students are successful when those two areas are blended together. It’s a different kind of building, designed for a unique campus, serving a new type of student.
ROCHESTER BEACON: As you look back, what were some challenges to making this a reality? How did you overcome them?
BRODNER: Building something as complicated as the SHED in a time where the supply chain was disrupted, and when the world was learning how to recover, was no easy obstacle. RIT has the right team in place to knock this out of the park! Together, our RIT principal project manager, Mark Williams, the head of the local design team HBT, Mike Prattico and David Matthews as well as the construction management team Welliver, specifically John Fritz, Jordan Young and Eric Fee. Together, they made this a reality with an incredibly tight timeframe.
ROCHESTER BEACON: What do you hope the SHED will do for RIT and by extension, the Rochester community?
BRODNER: RIT believes that inspiration isn’t something one waits around for in the hopes that it strikes. Instead, we believe that in the right setting, we can generate inspiration. The SHED reflects the interdependence of the real world and increases the chances for creative collisions. Think of it as an idea super-collider, where we’re smashing diverse ideas together to inspire the unexpected and encourage novel problem-solving. It celebrates the ingenuity and innovative spirit of our students and faculty, accelerates their abilities, and will inspire imaginations at RIT well into the future.
Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. Photographs of the SHED were taken by Travis LaCoss, a photojournalism student at RIT. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected].