"Try to mimic the Flying Saucer in terms of beer presentation and selection." That isn't the type of order typically given to a college dining service, but Rhodes students aren't complaining.
The school's "Lynx Lair" was envisioned as a one-stop sandwich shop with a muted sports theme and some table games to pass the time -- an alternative to the "Harry Potter" feel of Rhodes' daunting main cafeteria. But faced with soaring food prices and a lack of student patronage, Rhodes Student Government (RSG) decided it was time for a change.
"Students have always given feedback to Aramark [the dining services company] and student government about the facility's food options, wait times, and flexibility as a space student groups could use or simply hang out in," says RSG president Andy Greer. "Over the years, layers of Band-Aid solutions have been applied: expanding the menu, adding refrigerated display cases, adding pool tables, adding booths. While these changes improved the facility a little, none addressed the core problem: The Lair feels exactly like its name -- a giant, open space where everyone feels exposed."
Greer hosted a series of focus groups in early September to assess student wants and needs and compiled his findings into a downloadable report(www.rhodes.edu/images/content/RSG/Final_Lair_Report.doc) that RSG would present to architects. The "Flying Saucer" suggestion was just one of the conclusions of the report, which also emphasized better food selection and a smaller, more private atmosphere.
"When students enter the facility, they won't feel like they're on a catwalk," Greer says. "The entrance will shift to the patio, and there will be three zones, each with a separate feel: a pub area, an open area with the stage in the middle, and a softer seating area. The food-service area will be greatly expanded and will include separate stations for different types of food. Southwestern-style cuisine and a brick pizza oven are some examples."
Student involvement didn't end after the focus groups, however. Greer created "Redo the Lair" on the networking Web site facebook.com as a forum for students to voice their opinions, and he also put up a comment board in the entrance to the Lair. He gave those comments to the architects in official meetings in January and February.
"I really feel like the student feedback throughout this process has been, and will continue to be, the driving force of the design," he says. "Students need to feel ownership of any space to make it successful, and I feel like this space reflects their input and not what 'the administrators' thought would be good."
Construction begins after school lets out in May and should be complete by the time students return in August. Rhodes is contracting with Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas, the architects who worked on the Paul Barret Jr. Library and the "East Village" on-campus apartment complex.