2004-12-15

South Campus labyrinth

The Romance Languages department was either sadistic or just desperate for lecture hall space, so I had to go to the Pharmacy Building to take my final exam last night. Yes, last night at 7:00 p.m., a wonderful time to find your way around a new place. A classmate and I approached the building from the west side, walking through the McPhaul Center grounds after which we encountered a massive complex of greenhouses and gardens. This is the kind of place Saddam Hussein used to hide his stuff from the UN.

Each row of greenhouse space is connected by more enclosed structure, and the adjacent gardens have confusing pathways and long landscaping enclosures that impede foot traffic. So we walked past this place only to encounter a fence right against the grounds that forced us to turn around. We eventually found a twisted pathway to the Pharmacy Building, so we followed it, walked up to the building, and found the door locked. College of Pharmacy and Romance Languages, damn you both. Romance Languages, you sent a bunch of undergraduates to a building they've never had any business in before after dark. College of Pharmacy, you can't play host to other colleges and lock them out.

I guess the Pharmacy Building people expect everyone to use the front door, but the front door is also highly inaccessible. I later left through the front door and got lost around the greenhouses again. I guess I was supposed to take the D.W. Brooks Greenway all the way to Carlton Street and then walk back to my car in the S10 lot. Pardon the expression, but that's like going around your ass to get to your elbow. The Greenway is some lofty, ivory-tower scheme to make South Campus pedestrian friendly, but it is blockaded from casual use by labyrinthine sidewalks, greenhouses, and construction fences. I still cannot figure out how to walk straight from a parking lot to that greenway. At least the North Campus quads that inspired the monstrosity have straight sidewalks that reach other straight sidewalks along straight roadways accessible to the public.

OK, OK, so am I supposed to park in East Bumble and take a bus? The nearest bus stops are incredibly far away from the Pharmacy Buidling and God forbid you want to take a bus to the ecology department. By building a stupid greenway over an important traffic corridor and closing the cross streets, the architects have guaranteed that the buses are never going to help you in this area and that pedestrians are going to be too freaking tired to look at all those pedestrian-friendly trees and fences that got planted. This is the architectural epitome of a Southern backhanded compliment.

Yes, so the only straight path through South Campus involves wire cutters (for fences) and crowbars (for greenhouses). The fences are blocking off Green Street, which is an important cross street. I called the grounds maintenance director of the Physical Plant, Dexter Adams, and he explained that utility construction has been ongoing for a very long time. (Green Street was closed immediately after the Greenway opened, and it has been closed ever since.) I mentioned I had to go to the Pharmacy Building, and he knew exactly what I was talking about. He said that as soon as possible they will be opening the sidewalks as the utilities project nears completion, so he understands the labyrinth problem. After that, the third phase of the greenway project will be started. The utilities director, John Benca, views his work in the context of the bigger picture of the university's mission, so I'd bet he also understands the frustration that the project is causing. So while it would be nice to rail against the incompetence of some administrator or contractor, I doubt the Physical Plant deserves any blame for Green Street being closed month after month after month.

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