The long-awaited Breezeway Renovation project is finally full-steam ahead!
Architecture firm MC Harry & Associates won the rights to renovate the Breezeway, a $2.5M project that we've discussed before on several occasions. It's not a lot of money (FAU originally hoped for at least $4.5M) but essentially what they want to do is repair the infrastructure (i.e. so it doesn't leak anymore) and then revitalize both levels (especially the second story) to include more social nodes and study space.
They've created a webpage announcing an open forum where everyone - even alumni - can come out and give their feedback on the initial renderings (see below) and share their ideas on how to make the Breezeway a better place. The forum will be held at the Alumni Center from 9:30-4 pm so check out the webpage in the link for more specific information about what time your "group" is scheduled to speak with them. I'd really like to commend FAU for choosing a firm that is actively seeking out advice from the FAU community on building "the Breezeway of the future" and hopefully people will come out and give them some good feedback!
Now, the webpage condenses the pictures a bit so I've included them in a larger format to get a better idea of what they had in mind (along with some commentary):
NOTE: All photo credits go to MC Harry & Associates and FAU. Included here only for discussion purposes.
They call this the "Mid-Town" segment of the Breezeway, and in case you're having difficulty placing it, the building behind it is the library extension. The building on the right is Sanson Science. Of all the segments, this may be the one that gives the architect's the most freedom and ability to show off, so in that sense it's a critical piece.
Now, these two stairwells would presumably replace the aging staircase near the Ritter Art Gallery. Although I like the idea of the stairwells, or one unified stairwell, I personally don't care for the ones here as they look cheap and lack character. We can do better. The second floor balcony has some chairs to lay out, which is a nice touch, although the circular plaza below could use a fountain with some seating. The "issue" with fountains is (1) the original cost and (2) the maintenance, to ensure the pumps are working and it hasn't gotten disgusting.
Alternatively, this could be an elevated performance space for bands/speakers to use, although I'm not sure how often it would be used for that purpose. Also, it might steal the thunder from Traditions Plaza, which currently hosts performances from time to time.
In order to create this picture above, they'd have to extend out into the ring of trees that currently exist there and perhaps even modify the Alumni Plaza space. I'm actually okay with that, especially the latter, as it looks like the Alumni Plaza space never really took off and they made the best with the donations they got. Perhaps they thought students would feed more and more money into it, replacing the central palm trees with a carillon as originally envisioned in the Landscaping Master Plan, but that never came to pass. And now that we have the Traditions Plaza and the Alumni Center itself, I don't see them investing more into the Alumni Plaza space any time soon.
Again, if the focus is on the circular plaza below, perhaps these two staircases could curve toward it to really drive home that area as a focal point along the Breezeway.
This is my favorite rendering of the three. It's the right idea with the plants and the sculptures although both sides could benefit from way more seating since one of the biggest problems with the Breezeway (outside of the fact that it leaks) is that there just isn't enough seating.
So that's where their head is at. No idea what they might do to the Breezeway floor or the other entrances yet.
But let's talk through some other hypotheticals that have been proposed over time. What if we…
Enclosed the Breezeway in glass and provided air-conditioning: this is a really interesting idea pursued by Student Government years ago and it would have felt very much like walking down an airport terminal, which could have been very nice. However, there are a number of times you'd have to leave the Breezeway to go east or west (towards the Spaceship, the library, etc) which would mean a lot of opening and closing of doors. Also it would completely close off the Breezeway to maintenance golf cart/bicycle/longboard traffic, and people probably wouldn't be thrilled with that. So you're talking about a massive change in environment and culture, although I think that would have been a well-regarded next step and people have adjusted well to it. At this point, however, I doubt FAU will go forward with that plan.
Removed (most of) the Breezeway altogether: this would mean leaving the east-west connections required between second story buildings, at the very least, and would have negated the principal purpose of the Breezeway in the first place. It would have allowed FAU to change the floor to red brick or something and add more trees and such, but it also would have meant ducking between buildings when you get that South Florida afternoon thunderstorm. The university might have felt more like a "real" university though, since most colleges don't have a Breezeway, but that seems to be the only real benefit there. I'd put the chance of FAU ever doing this at about 0%.
Extend the Breezeway to the Student Union and/or to the Education building: this comes up from time to time, and the Boca Raton Master Plan has even shown Breezeway extensions in the past, but I seriously, sincerely hope they never do it. The primary reason is that it would be expensive, but also because all of the existing architecture and landscaping would have to be reworked to make it viable. There's something wonderful about walking down Diversity Way just seeing trees and open sky without having an ugly Breezeway structure on top of it. That said, it's not unreasonable to try and connect the Business Building (which is already accessible from the Breezeway) with the Education building, and maybe even a covered structure from the Education building to Parking Garage 1.
Anyway, if you have ideas or comments about the Breezeway, I'd encourage you to attend the Open Forum session above and let the architects know! This is your university so take ownership of it and help us improve!