UT dorms are getting a facelift.
The new Fred D. Brown, Jr. Residence Hall, currently under construction on Andy Holt Avenue, is the first step in the university's ultimate plan to redefine residential halls on campus. The current demolition of Gibbs Hall and the Stokely Athletic Center will mark the second reconstruction on campus.
"It will be completely different from what we see now," said Frank Cuevas, executive director of Student Housing. "After Gibbs is finished, if approved by our trustees and the State Building Commission, we will proceed with the redevelopment of what is west end of campus – essentially the presidential courtyard, Morrill and the Apartment Residence Hall."
This new, coed residence hall will sit "right on the footprints" of Gibbs Hall, next to a new, 1,000-space parking garage and the expanded Haslam Fields. A portion of Johnny Majors Drive will be closed permanently to allow for the expanded fields, as well as to create a more pedestrian friendly walkway for students.
"In the design of this facility we are trying to create broader sidewalks and a safer environment for pedestrians – give it a more campus feel," Cuevas said.
Cuevas also confirmed the new residence halls would include more green space, landscape designs and pedestrian avenues compared to what is currently present. The new residence hall on Volunteer and Lake Loudon Boulevard will include a tiered green-space and covered walkways to the parking garage.
Tucker Towe, a second-year architecture student, lived in North Carrick during his first year on campus. Towe asserted that, for freshmen choosing universities, first impressions are an important factor.
"The current halls, students aren't getting the sense of community and public green spaces that other campuses have to offer," Towe said.
As well as increased green space, the new residential halls will offer a variety of room layouts, rather than the standard dormitory style. Cuevas explained the rooms in the updated Gibbs Hall will house up to four single bedrooms and two shared baths per suite.
The Fred D. Brown, Jr. Residence Hall will also feature an enhanced dining hall on the ground floor accessible without having to enter any residential quarter of the building. In addition to the new dining facility, each floor in the building will have its own laundry room and small study area.
Despite these improvements, some students remain apprehensive. Marianela D'Aprile, a fourth-year architecture student who lived in Morrill Hall her first year and Apartment Residence Hall her second, appreciates the unique architecture of UT's campus.
"A lot of the residence halls in UT are a product of the Brucism Movement that happened in the 70s and 80s," D'Aprile said, referencing the famous Knoxville architect Bruce McCarty who designed the Humanities Complex, the Clarence Brown Theatre and the Art & Architecture buildings on campus. "They are part of that heritage and that part of era of design. They are really special in that way and have that character that's unique to Knoxville."
Still, D'Aprile admitted she agrees that renovations are necessary, given her frequent problems with asbestos in Apartment Residence Hall.
Nonetheless, D'Aprile said she hopes new structures will retain some of their Brucism design.
"It seems like there's a trend going towards a collegiate gothic style like in Vol Hall and the new residence hall, but instead of reverting back to old style, maybe we should try to build on the legacy that McCarty left," D'Aprile said. "UT has the potential to show a campus that has really progressed and redefine the American campus as we think of it, to design something environmentally friendly and serves the needs of its residence and looks like it's not trying to copy something else."