As celebrations go, it wasn’t exactly posh. The dozen or so people invited last week followed printed directions to reach a cramped basement hallway far below the Ron Geballe Auditorium in the Physics/Astronomy Building. There, on a doorway, yellow ribbons had been draped, along with two red signs with black lettering.
The occasion was the opening of newly renovated office space, but the opening was as symbolic as it was literal. The signs on the door read “Physics/Astronomy, Do not enter, alarm will sound” and “Department of Zoology, Do not enter, alarm will sound,” and they had been posted on opposite sides of the door since the building opened in 1994.
While the average campus citizen may not know it, there are tunnels under the Physics/Astronomy complex, and one of them runs between the auditorium building and Kincaid, where the Zoology Department resides. Astronomer and newly named Vice Provost Craig Hogan summed up the situation with a story.
“I think physicists and astronomers would look at the sign from their side and think some weird animal experiments were going on, and the zoologists would look at it from their side and think some weird radioactive experiments were going on.” He laughed. “I guess it took us a while to figure out we could just unlock the doors.”
The process actually began two years ago when the Zoology Department found itself short of laboratory space and appealed to the College of Arts and Sciences to renovate the basement for that purpose. The space had been created during construction of the Physics/Astronomy Building but not finished because there were no funds for it.
“We told them we couldn’t turn the space into labs because the cost of installing fume hoods and related duct work in a basement is exorbitant,” recalled Denis Martynowych, the director of facilities and planning for A&S. “We told them to come up with another solution.”
So Zoology thought about it some more and realized it had graduate students and emeritus faculty housed in space that could be economically converted into labs. It was a simple step from there to decide to create office space for the displaced people in the basement. Provost Lee Huntsman found $835,000 to fund the project.
That’s why Huntsman arrived at the celebration armed with a pair of scissors. He cut not only the ribbon on the doors, but the two signs — Xerox copies of the actual signs — to open the new space for tours.
The area — designed by Gene Gudger of ARC Architects — includes 11 offices that will house about 35 graduate students and three offices for faculty. There is also a conference room, study area and small kitchen — 3,500 square feet in all. The space is not only functional but pleasant, with whimsical touches such as paw prints in the ceiling tiles.
So while zoology grad students and emeritus faculty settle into their new space, they can enjoy their new-found contact with the physicists and astronomers. And just so no one would forget the way it used to be, Hogan presented the actual signs to the chairs of Zoology and Astronomy “to keep as souvenirs.”