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Renovated Study Center Welcomes Residents

*Note: We are pleased to resurface this article from January 2020 to celebrate the reopening of the Study Center in October 2020. As new measures of cleanliness and disinfection are being implemented daily for the protection of our Residents, we will continue to determine the safest way to make available other communal spaces. New and returning Residents at International House this academic year arrived to see a brand-new Study Center after a seven-month renovation. The updated Study Center, located on the C-level of I-House South, now includes a computer lab with 16 work stations, nine pod-like private cubicles, and a separated small conference room, which has become known as “the Glass Room,” for meetings, video interviews, and other group work.
“We knew the space wasn’t getting used as frequently as possible,” said Vincent Melito, I-House’s Group Director of Facilities and Site Operations. Melito had been monitoring the way Residents had been using the Center, which is available to them 24 hours a day, seven days a week for studying. “The way the layout was, the tables were too large, with too many chairs, and people were uncomfortable sitting at one side.”
(the Study Center before its 2019 renovation) While it would have been possible simply to purchase smaller tables and refresh the other pieces of furniture, Melito and his team thought it would be a good opportunity to update the entire Center. His team worked with an external architect to draw up plans and figure out designs for the room, and they conferenced with Resident Council members and other stakeholders to get feedback on the plans. Around September of 2018, contractors were hired to go ahead with the construction. “This was a highly visible project because it touches everybody,” Melito said. “That fact made us think about every step and work to get Resident buy-in. We felt really comfortable once we got the support to go ahead with the project.” Melito said his office has received great feedback from Residents on the renovation, especially from those who were able to see the previous and current versions of the room. The new layout increased the number of seats from 36 to 64. Additionally, Melito noted that of the nine private cubicles, at least six or seven are being used nearly every night. “We knew we were solving the problem of people having private space to study, but we also made the Center big enough for everyone to [be able to] use the room,” he said. Coming up next, Melito and his team are working on an upgrade of the H.R. Commons, another one of I-House’s communal spaces. The design will be consistent with that of the new Study Center, but with its own identity. Honoring the community spirit of legendary I-House figure Herman “H.R.” Rottenberg for whom it is named, the new room will include zones where students can gather with other Residents in a more social capacity as well as study individually. And while the Study Center needed to be shut down entirely during construction, Melito said his team’s goal is to keep H.R. Commons open as much as possible, especially during intensive study periods. “We don’t want to shut down Commons when Residents need a place to study, so we are trying to do our work through a very limited schedule, with periods of three to four hours each time,” Melito said. That project is expected to be complete in April 2020. Daniela Brighenti is pursuing a Master’s degree in Bilingual Education at Columbia University’s Teachers College. She received her Bachelor’s in History from Yale University, where she was a Journalism Scholar and served on the editorial board of the Yale Daily News.