Section: Opinion

New downtown? Not if it’s like the NCAs

By Janie Simonton

I’m unhappy about the master plan. A cursory glance at the PDF published on the College’s website reveals “revitalization” of Gambier staples such as the post office, Student Affairs, the bookstore and the Kenyon Inn. The computerized rendering in the document has these buildings drawn up to fit the likes of Eaton Center, the North Campus Apartments (NCAs), the Health Center, the Kenyon Athletic Center (KAC), etc. Clean white-sided boxes with lots of windows.

The commonality between all of these buildings is esteemed architect and celebrated alumnus Graham Gund ’63. He’s built a lot that’s aesthetically pleasing. What I don’t appreciate, however, is the shoddy construction that seems too synonymous with these buildings. Though I hear complaints about the KAC, Lentz House and the gallery — faulty door handles, weak roofs, lack of electrical outlets — at the end of the day these comments are hearsay. What I can personally attest to is the hasty construction of the NCAs.
I live in NCA 304A, and I like living with my close friends in a house probably larger than the one I’ll live in for the next several years. I like having a kitchen; I like having a private bathroom; I like having personal space. I understand that I’m very lucky, but what worries me is how quickly the NCAs have deteriorated.

My apartment, according to the Gund Partnership’s website, was constructed in Phase I of the new housing process, meaning it went up around 2012 and was inhabited in the same year. Three years later, it’s coming apart at the seams, literally:
The second-floor baseboard is falling away from the wall.
The wall of the third-floor bathroom is visibly separated from the doorframe.
The base of the shower head of the third-floor bathroom fell away from the wall, exposing the hole surrounding the shower head.
The first-to-second-floor banister quivers to the touch.
The door to one of the second-floor bedrooms has been slightly off the hinges all year, to the point that it drags through the carpet and my housemate must yank her door shut to close it at all because she encounters so much resistance.
And my house isn’t the only one with problems. I have friends who broke windows by trying to open them, friends who have moved furniture and subsequently torn holes in walls and carpets, friends who have had relatively unused drains grow mold out of nowhere.

If I were living in a New Apartment, I would roll my eyes and soldier on. These problems are to be expected of temporary housing that went up 40 years ago. But shiny, new housing that has hardly been up three years? It’s appalling how slapdash the construction was.
If the master plan is followed as it stands right now, I balk at the costs of upkeep the College will have to endure with a village full of these clapboard and plaster boxes. I don’t want students in years to come to go to school in Graham Gund’s shoebox diorama, held together by the equivalence of a cheap glue stick, requiring a reapplication of adhesive at every turn. Let’s stop this before it goes too far.

Janie Simonton ’15 is an international studies major from Mason, Ohio. Contact her at simontonj@kenyon.edu.

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