U of O journalism building gets redesign

The Register-Guard

EUGENE — After being “homeless” for 18 months, University of Oregon journalism students have been checking out their new digs this week — and liking the feel of the place.

“I feel like I have a place where I belong,” said Jackie Haworth, a sophomore journalism major. “It's my second day (in this building), and I already feel at home.”

While the School of Journalism and Communication's Allen Hall was being redesigned — a $15 million remodeling project funded half by private gifts and half by state bonds — journalism headquarters were moved to Agate Hall, about a 15-minute trek from the center of campus. Most journalism classes were held in that building, but others were scattered across campus at such locales as the Knight Library and Lillis Business Complex.

More seating areas in the new Allen Hall — nicknamed Allen Hall 3.0 — are intended to foster a sense of belonging, and already are encouraging students to interact and collaborate — a practice that will come in handy for the professions that the students are entering, Haworth said.

“People are more comfortable here; they're already talking to people they don't know,” she said. “In Agate, you don't really want to stay and hang out.”

While remnants of Allen Hall's 1922 building and 1954 remodel remain, the open and airy layout adds a modern touch. The three-story building has been expanded by about 18,000 square feet — a 40 percent increase — but also designed to meet the silver equivalent of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, standards of energy efficiency. Its energy use is 26 percent more efficient than required by Oregon's energy code.

Windowed walls let students see what their peers are up to, and dry-erase board walls are intended to foster collaboration, allowing students to turn any casual conversation in the hall into an impromptu meeting. Students already have contributed drawings, inspirational phrases and plenty of versions of “Chip's staying!” — references to head football coach Chip Kelly — to the boards.

The building also includes a Digital Commons area on the third floor, an open-air computer lab that can accommodate a large class or several small groups. There's also a hearth area and a signature lecture space.

Junior journalism student Alan Sylvestre was sitting with Haworth during an afternoon break this week. Both said they attended classes in the old Allen Hall for just a single term, before the start of construction in the late spring of 2011.

Sylvestre predicted that the new building will help his creative process, which he said is at its optimum when he's surrounded by peers.

“I produce journalistic work best when I feel like I'm in a newsroom, and this feels like one,” Sylvestre said of the building.

Jackie Kokka, a sophomore advertising major, shared similar sentiments.

“I like how (the open layout) gives a creative atmosphere,” she said. “I love the windows, too. It's nice to see out of them when you're working.”

Allen Hall 3.0 is the product of architect of record TBG Architects + Planners in Eugene; design architect YGH Architecture of Portland; and contractor Lease Crutcher Lewis. The building was last remodeled in 1954, when it served 300 majors. Now it will serve more than 2,000 majors in journalism, public relations, advertising and communication studies.

Kokka said she appreciated the journalism faculty's efforts to make Agate Hall work as a temporary home, but is happy that the school is back where many feel it belongs: in the center of campus. With the Erb Memorial Union's food court just minutes away, she said she's looking forward to hunkering down to do work without the inconvenience of being so far removed from the rest of campus.

For some students, Allen Hall's reopening is a return home, but for newcomer Kiersten Olsen and those like her, it's a fresh start regardless of the location.

“It's really cool to be in the first set of students to go through here,” said Olsen, a sophomore public relations major. “I saw the old Allen Hall when I toured the campus, and it really needed some improvements. I'm happy for the university that they got to remodel.”

Allen Hall is now on par with the university's other new buildings, such as the Lillis complex and the John Jaqua Center for Student Athletes, she said.

“I think it'll be more of a draw for people who want to join the journalism and communication school,” Olsen said. “More people can access the facility. There are new labs. I think it will help advance our school.”

Still, as much as journalism students may love the new building, their studies have taught them to be objective and take in all the details. One thing Allen Hall is still missing? A cafe, Sylvestre and Haworth agreed.

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