Pieces of the Student Centre roof have been falling onto the Blind Duck Pub patio below during the past month, requiring caution tape around the area in order to prevent injury to pedestrians walking underneath the structure. The precise reason for such rapid decay of the tenyear old building is unclear, although there have been some suggestions of maintenance deferrals and cut-backs in the design process of the Student Centre.
Mohammad Hashim, executive director of the Student Centre, explained that the damage was not unusual or significant, and noted that a work order had been placed with the Facilities and Maintenance department. Although control of the Student Centre was officially transferred to the Student Union (UTMSU) two years ago, maintenance and repairs are still conducted through the University.
The Director of Facilities and Maintenance, Paul Goldsmith, was unsure of what arrangement exists between the UTMSU and the UTM administration, except that maintenance is handled in the same way for the Student Centre as it is for all other buildings on campus. He also attributed the roof damage to ordinary wear and tear and did not think that it was related to any maintenance deferrals or cut-backs in the past, although he also admitted that he did not know the extent of the problem.
When asked how long it would take before the roof of the Student Centre could be fixed, Goldsmith initially responded that there would be a timeline for repairs by Monday, March 23. As of press time, Goldsmith was unavailable for comment, despite several attempts to reach him.
Plans to expand the Student Centre were put forward in 2007 by Hashim in partnership with UTMSU, who noted that although expansion projects around campus were initiated, the Student Centre has remained stagnant, still providing the same resources for Student Life that were originally designed and intended for a population of 6,000 students.
Since University of Toronto President David Naylors Towards 2030 plan calls for UTM to have 15,000 students in twenty years time, Hashim is proposing to add numerous new club spaces, food services, and public computers to the existing structure. According to a 2007 UTMSU report on the expansion of the building, the move is necessary in order to better facilitate the needs of the campus growing population.
The Student Centre was designed by Kohn Schnier Architects in 1997 as an addition onto the existing Crossroads Building. Martin Kohn, who directed the project, said that his company fulfilled the requirements of the competition brief set out by the University, but indicated that the University cut back on plans for the upper level of the Student Centre. There were level changes made to the upper interior [of the building], said Kohn, though he was unaware of why UTM decided to do so.
At the time of construction, Kohn noted that the cost of demolishing the Crossroads Building would have been equal to the cost of renovating and preparing it for expansion. Kohn more recently speculated that perhaps the University wanted to spare the materials from the Crossroads Building to avoid throwing them away.
With so many questions surrounding the structural integrity of the Student Centre, and the roof shedding material, it is worth asking how this building can possibly be expanded. The UTMSU proposal involves building new rooms and structures underneath the existing roof, where there are currently covered patios. If the roof is falling apart, how will this be possible?