Critique on Lowry Layout

Zach Perrier ’25

With the renovation of the Lowry Center nearing completion, I have had a lot of heartfelt, disappointed and even irate conversations about what went well and what could have been done better. I have talked with people about the parting of Mom’s Truck Stop, as well as the carpeting and the blinding, fluorescent lights beaming throughout. This is not to negate what works, as I and others have enjoyed the comfortable seating and natural light of the second floor. But, by far, a massive shortcoming to the expansion of Lowry that rarely came up in conversation was the front entrance to the building itself. Drab, concrete slabs and gray paths lead up to the student center. The atmosphere appears alienating without even walking into the building.

What is most puzzling to me is the lack of any amenities or infrastructure for a space meant to work with all of the students on campus. Kauke, Andrews and Taylor are examples of buildings on campus with a bike rack, cigarette butt disposal and emergency call box. The front of Lowry has none of these. Bicycles are usually haphazardly leaned against the building itself or nearby streetlights. Look any closer around the so-called “benches” and you will be greeted by a river of cigarette butts lining the grass. None of the students or staff involved here are the problem. These problems are structural.

What I believe the outside of Lowry needs is placemaking or the way that places need an actual sense of place, a uniqueness that makes an area attractive. In some ways, the desolate area has some of these qualities. An important need of placemaking is foot traffic, which a student center would certainly have, and this is the case for Lowry. A possible solution for the outside area could be events, especially related to the arts. Chalk art events, art shows and public performances could breathe some more life into the area. An example of this might be the sidewalk chalk events hosted at the Cleveland Museum of Art, fostering a sense of community by showcasing that anyone can jump in and create art. As the weather gets nicer, even an area like the front (or back) of Lowry could be host to creative placemaking on campus.

In the academic literature on placemaking, creative placemaking is a common example. But that’s the tip of the iceberg for the potential ideas for the outside area around Lowry. Flea markets, retail or even donation events could spark a tradition of temporary commerce around the student center. Even outdoor seating for campus dining and general socialization could play a role. As long as the accessibility of Lowry continues, these types of pop-up projects could create not only a livelier space but a place that acts more as a hub for the College.

I believe the narrow paths of the entrance itself are the biggest obstacle to these types of initiatives, with Beall Avenue being a stark reminder that creating communication with pedestrians and buildings is complicated by a greater car-dependent society. Pedestrianizing at least a section of Beall could be an intriguing solution, yet the Wooster Community Hospital complicates this idea due to the need for a road. Regardless, a path to proper placemaking is possible.

No amount of mulch or swag-wagon appearances will fix the fact that the outside of Lowry has a great opportunity to build a greater sense of community on campus. Placemaking is a viable and realistic solution to create an environment that’s more than just foot traffic. At the very least, a bike rack, cigarette butt disposal and emergency call box would be a good start.

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