By Julianna Cummins
The faint smell of stale air and sweat wafts up the staircase at the corner of Kerr Hall East and North. Every single digit of Pi, painted in black, snakes down the wall. A periodic table has also been painted with pride in this quiet passageway that leads to the almost-hidden entrance into the bowels of Kerr Hall. The blue metal door opens with a click, and you’re thrust into one of Ryerson’s best-kept secrets: Welcome to the Dungeon.
“I’ve seen people walk in, and then walk back out because they think it’s the most ridiculous place they’ve ever entered. I don’t blame them,” said the aptlynamed Xerxes Engineer, above the din of metal music and chatter of the Dungeon.
The Dungeon is the hangout spot for Ryerson’s engineering students, across all disciplines and years. The low, mutli-coloured ceiling pipes make it look like a cave. But the old, sunken couches (one has bedbugs), the hole punched in the wall and the laughter make it feel more like a rec room. It’s full of engineering paraphernalia: an old computer sits in a cupboard waiting to be tinkered with, and a plastic pool used for dying froshees purple sits behind a table. A broken exercise bike has taken up residence in the middle of the room.
“If it wasn’t for my midterm tomorrow, I would be fixing that thing right now,” said Engineer, gesturing to the bike.
Alan Machin, an engineering support staff member at Ryerson who studied here in the early ‘90s, said a small cafeteria in the Dungeon used to peddle panzerottis and drinks.
The cafeteria closed around 1995, he said, but the space remained a place for engineers to hang out because of its close proximity to engineering classrooms and offices.
The Dungeon isn’t perfect by any means: there is no natural light and the bolted-down desks and chairs aren’t practical for group work. But it’s not the physical space that makes the Dungeon distinctive, said Franz Perez, a second-year student.
“It’s definitely atmosphere that is the most distinctive about it… It’s a place where, when you go there, you know that whatever you want to do is OK there.”