By Nicole Schmidt
After four years of planning and renovations and more than two years of problems, delays and about a $63-million budget increase, the Ryerson Image Arts Building celebrated its launch last year as a blue and gold beacon on campus.
The building garnered positive attention for its Architectural Lighting
magazine award for best use of colour last summer.
In late September, the Ryerson Image Centre gallery’s festive grand opening during Scotiabank Nuit Blanche triggered the renovation of student work spaces in the building.
“The general atmosphere in the building now is, I think, one of pleasure and pride. We are living and working in much improved spaces, much of which is new and beautifully designed,” said Brian Damude, the Faculty of Communication and Design’s (FCAD) Interim Associate Dean of Faculty and Student Affairs.
But the image arts building’s sleek, LED-illuminated exterior and decorated name have masked students’ frustrations with the new space.
“It was our first semester back in the building, so there’s an expectation that there’s going to be some roadblocks,” said JC Pinheiro, a third-year photography student who went on an exchange and was alarmed by the state of the building upon his return.
“But when you come back [in the Winter semester] and find out that those problems are still persisting, it’s frustrating and irritating.”
What Pinheiro felt was one of the building’s best production spaces prior to its renovation- including a cavernous studio with 50-foot ceilings – was replaced by a commercial facility to which he said students have no more access than the general public.
A fourth-year film student, who wished to remain anonymous, said that when students returned to school in the fall, they discovered the soundstage was not safe to use, there were holes in the wall and there wasn’t enough study space.
“I think that the exterior looks fantastic and that it gives Ryerson a great image to the on-looking community,” the student said. “But the student facilities are in just as shitty of a state as they were before the project began.”
The building’s largest studio space was filled in when an extra floor was installed. The main level is now home to the gallery and also features study spaces and Balzac’s Cafe, which opened in May 2012.
“There definitely were changes, but some things stayed the same,” said Vid Ingelevics, the photography program director. “It’s kind of like putting new clothes on an old person, in a way.”
But problems extend beyond the visible features of the building. The fourth-year student said that during the summer the air conditioners weren’t working so students were forced to work in the heat with industrial-sized fans buzzing in the hallways.
“An amazing sound studio is not being used and is blocked off to students, and an incredibly expensive and amazing-quality Christie[audio-visual] projector is not hooked up, so we have to screen our projects in low resolution,” said the student.
“Our film scanner is awful and actually ruined several first year students’ films, turning them green when they are supposed to be black and white.” Pinheiro decided that something needed to be done about these issues, so he started a petition, which triggered a meeting with the program administrators last week.
“We’re pushing to try to deal with as many of these things as we can, but a lot of it has to do with money,” said Ingelevics.
“It is only a year since we’ve been in here and there’s a lot of things that could happen and still are going to happen,” Inglevics added.
“It’s kind of like pressing a reset button – it just takes a while to get everything back into place.”