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Illick 5 Renovations Provide Students with New Learning Environment

Lecture hall more user friendly
2/26/2019

Class in session in remodeled Illick 5

Illick 5 received long-awaited renovations recently that brought the 50-year-old auditorium into the 21st century.

"The auditorium had served the ESF community without substantive improvements since it was constructed in 1968," said Rex Giardine, assistant director of facilities planning, design and construction. Pre-renovation, Illick 5 presented a number of challenges as an instructional space, he said.

Until the project began, the auditorium had its original plastic shell flip-up tablet arm seats to accommodate 157 students. The three-glass, rear-projection screens could not support today's wider format ratio images. Lighting, controls and technology were antiquated, and desired changes were hampered by a practically inaccessible acoustic plaster ceiling, and a ramp concealed in an adjacent passageway was difficult to access and inherently too steep for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) use, he said.

Holt Architects of Ithaca designed the auditorium transformation based partly on input from faculty regarding the space's shortcomings and ideas for improvement.

Bellows Construction Specialties started with asbestos abatement in May 2018. The auditorium was then widened slightly to the east so a new ADA-compliant ramp leading to the front of the room could be installed. The dark walnut wall finishes were replaced with more reflective and lighter natural maple panels which also span across the ceiling of the seating area. The curved, tiered levels were kept, but new swing-away seating was incorporated with sweeping continuous seminar-style work surfaces that more than tripled the work surface available to each student compared to the prior flip-up tablet arm surfaces, said Giardine.

Well-controlled energy efficient LED lighting units were integrated with air diffusers, speakers and wireless access points into the ceiling areas. The teaching area, while it retains a traditional primary chalk surface favored by many faculty, will also have the latest teaching technology, including control of two widescreen rear units projecting onto a double-wide glass projection surface. Wheelchair-accessible student positions are in the front and rear of the auditorium, and the teaching station features a worksurface that can be raised or lowered to meet the needs of faculty.

Even though the number of seats decreased slightly-from 157 to 149-the level of comfort and accommodation of student needs has risen considerably, said Giardine. Each student position features a single outlet beneath the writing surface to provide power for laptops and other devices.

The renovations receive high marks from those that use the room.

"Illick 5 is a pleasure to teach in," said Dr. Mark Teece of the Department of Chemistry. "The room is so much brighter than before and it is so easy to see all the students at once. The new seating and stairs allow for much better interaction with students, and makes it easier to get students more involved in the class. Getting students to work together during class on the tables increases the number of activities that we can all get involved in, both students and teachers."

The space directly outside the auditorium now features built-in seating which additionally marks the location along the long hallway of the most significant space on the ground floor. Illick's hallways have also been improved with new linoleum flooring and a refreshed paint scheme.