Institute adds art projects to CULC rooftop

The outside view of the CULC, with a sight of the rooftop garden. The Institute has received many questions following its sudden closure of the rooftop gardens earlier this year. // Photo by Dani Sisson Student Publications

The G. Wayne Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons (CULC) is an integral part of Tech.

Whether it’s grabbing a coffee at Kaldi’s, attending introductory labs or hosting late night study sessions with peers, the CULC can be regarded as the Mecca of Tech and embodies the diversity of student life at the Institute.

With recent renovations in adjacent buildings like Price Gilbert Memorial Library and Crosland Tower, the three buildings have become more accessible to students using connected hallways and floors, offering immersive study spaces. As part of their floor plans, both the CULC and Crosland Tower have rooftop gardens that offer seating and scenery for students.

However, as of the Spring 2021 academic semester, both rooftop spaces were closed unexpectedly until further notice, with no communication to the student body regarding tentative re-opening dates. Since then, the topic has been subject to wide speculation and questioning as many students constitute the closings to student well-being and the rooftops’ potential contributions to self-harm for students struggling with mental health issues.

In order to mitigate misinformation surrounding the topic, the Technique reached out to building management for the libraries and CULC for clarification. Seemingly, the speculations are not far from reality; the CULC and Crosland rooftops are closed for construction of two art projects that will add an additional element of safety to the outdoor spaces.

The art installations are being overseen by a professor at the Georgia Tech College of Design, specifically within the School of Architecture. The professor is collaborating with an alumnus of the Institute to design the art pieces that will be on display on both rooftops following their re-opening. Institute leadership hopes that the artwork will serve a multifaceted role: hopeful and optimistic rhetoric for struggling students, whilst also being a structural safety element.

Emphasizing her commitment to student life at GT, Leslie Sharp told the Technique that, “As Dean of the Libraries and Clough, I want to assure you that the success and well-being of our students is our utmost priority which includes reducing the risk of suicide and self-harm. We are working hard to build an environment that is safe, accessible, and supportive for
everyone.” Conversely, the project’s completion has been postponed indefinitely.

Problems pertaining to national supply chain shortages for materials necessary for the installations have resulted in unexpected delays. The construction for the Crosland rooftop was supposed to terminate in Fall 2021, but now the closure is expected to extend till Spring 2022 because construction will officially begin in November.

The CULC terrace construction will begin once the supply shortages are alleviated and the space will be available for students and faculty as soon as possible following completion. The library staff and associated project managers are receptive to the frustration of students due to the closures, but they are committed to ensuring that the projects are completed to a high level of quality in terms of safety and beauty to best serve the student body.

The return of the renovated rooftop spaces will restore an essential part of Georgia Tech’s campus and allow students to enjoy the skyline views that Atlanta has to offer.

Adding art and additional safety measures to student spaces like the CULC and Crosland will be extremely beneficial for students, but it is an isolated step in the necessary process for addressing mental health and student life on campus; dialogue, tangible resources and administration support is essential for developing comprehensive and conducive student well-being programs.