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Archives: September, 2011


A Look Inside the New Poplar Hall

As the students come back to campus, some of the lucky ones will be moving into the UW’s newest residence facility, Poplar Hall. We had a chance to tour the hall this week, and chat with the people behind the transformation of student housing underway at the University of Washington.

A New Village for UW Students

Opening this Fall, the new Poplar Hall promises comfort and convenience to UW Students

The first thing you should know is that Poplar Hall is only the first stage in a years-long process to rebuild or refurbish all the student housing at the University. When finished, University Parkway will host a nexus of student housing, complete with a grocery store, restaurant, and gym. As new housing comes on line, older buildings will undergo complete overhauls, including upgrades to plumbing and heating, which will make the old residence halls more comfortable and sustainable. By 2015, the UW plans to have added at least 7,000 extra beds, which will go a long way towards easing congestion and overcrowding in the dorms. As the first of the new buildings to open, Poplar Hall gives a hint for what’s in store for students in the coming years.

A Sustainable Home for UW Students

Poplar Hall is a long way from the cinder-block-walled institutional housing you may remember from your college days. The rooms are spacious and bright and feature en-suite bathrooms. Study rooms and comfy lunges are on every floor. Large communal cooking and eating spaces, as well as meeting rooms and classrooms help make sure students will have plenty of places to work, meet, and play.  And while UW Housing and Food Services is justifiably proud of the amenities on offer at Poplar Hall, they are also enthusiastic about the vision of environmental sustainability that is at the heart of of the building’s plan.

As host to the Sustainability Living/Learning Community, Poplar Hall will host a population of students interested in experiencing sustainable living firsthand: In the lobby of Poplar Hall, a computer screen monitors energy and resource usage; The building features a heat recovery system that makes the structure more efficient and minimizes heat loss; The UW is seeking LEED Gold certification for Poplar Hall, the first residence hall on campus to have that distinction; the building is designed to maximize natural sunlight, lowering the demand for heat and electric light.

The University of Washington is working hard to make sure the quality of its on-campus housing matches the quality of the education students receive. Check out pictures and a floor plan of a student double room here.

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Public Art at the UW: Everything that Rises by Martin Puryear

In this series of periodic blog posts, we will examine the pieces of art that delight and befuddle visitors to campus and add to the unique beauty of the University.

The art that graces the UW campuses falls into three broad categories: Private gifts, like Red Square’s iconic Broken Obelisk; Commemorative works, like the busts and statues honoring figures prominent and obscure that are scattered all over campus; and works commissioned under the Art in Public Places program. Art in Public Places directs ½ of 1% of the budget of state buildings (including University buildings) to public art. These commissioned pieces are frequently the most visionary—and controversial—works seen on campus. Today’s subject falls in this last category.

"Everything that Rises" by Martin Puryear

"Everything that Rises" by Martin Puryear

I stumbled across Everything that Rises, a 23-foot bronze sculpture by Martin Puryear, standing sentinel in the plaza in front of the Physics/Astronomy building, while visiting campus with my 2-year-old daughter (she likes walking around the rim of Drumheller Fountain while Daddy holds her hand and envisions having to fish her out and explain to Mommy why the baby’s soaking wet). I found it visually arresting—smoothly curved among the sharp angles of the buildings, darkly reflective against the brighter brick, mysterious and evocative. It seems precariously balanced on its end, like a spinning top. The work’s radial symmetry draws the viewer to walk around it, making the background of buildings and mountains seem to rotate around the stationary pole of the sculpture.

My daughter liked the satisfying PONG it made when she slapped her hands against the hollow bronze.

Fans of the Southern gothic writer Flannery O’Connor will recognize the title of the work as the first part of the title of one of her short stories, “Everything That Rises Must Converge,” itself drawn from theologian Teilhard de Chardin’s writing about seeking unity with God. Puryear, however, warns against drawing to direct a connection between his work and its title. “I don’t want to be overly literal. Flannery O’Connor is one reference, but it’s obviously an incomplete phrase as it is. I like to give my work titles that are provocative and open up possible ways for people to look at the work and think about the work rather than close it down.”

Everything that Rises was not universally praised when it was unveiled. Described dismissively as a peanut or a bowling pin, or mistakenly identified as a depiction of a p-orbital (one of the paths electrons take around the nucleus of an atom), much of the controversy rose from the simplicity of its form. Former UW campus art administrator Kurt Kiefer, in a 2001 interview, opined, “A lot of people, when they see something simple, think that the artist is trying to pull the wool over their eyes. In fact, some artists choose to make things simple for a reason. They want to create something that makes people slow down. If an artwork makes people stop for a minute, then it’s done its job.”

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