Last updated on November 13, 2019
Paige: Hi everyone, welcome back to effortless, our podcast on accessibility and universal design. This is week four, I’m Paige.
Gavin: I am Gavin, welcome folks!
P: So this week were going to talk a little bit about Saint Joe’s, our university and their current and maybe future plans for accessibility and we’re gonna do a little bit of history on Saint Joe’s because it occurred to us that we didn’t really know too much about our school before we got here.
G: Right. It has a lot of different buildings and a lot of different locations but we’ve said before, Saint Joe’s is located on a hill–
P: Hawk Hill!
G: And its had a lot of, a lot of complications because of that. Buildings are built in weird shapes at different elevations, and the history of the buildings has been kind of staggered. One thing that you’ll notice as we’re talking through the timeline a little bit, is that a lot more has been built over the past few years. Which is kinda interesting, and well be talking to you a little bit more about a master plan to be implemented at the time this podcast, its meant to be implemented in 2020. That’s gonna be making a lot of changes, do we’re gonna be sort of sizing up what that’s gonna do for accessibility, potentially.
P: Yeah, it’s a really interesting time for Saint Jose because like Gavin mentioned, our school was built, and our school started in 1851, so it’s been quite a long time and so some of these buildings that we know and love that are beautiful and gorgeous but not accessible at all for everybody are some of those older ones. Right? Like Barbelin hall is gorgeous, it’s beautiful but some people are never gonna be able to see the top of it, and that’s something that maybe should be looked at being changed while also keeping that beautiful structure and history and tradition, so, kinda going back on our timeline, like I said, the first days of school of Saint Joe’s was in 1851, it was located right near independence hall and it was actually only thirty male students, so Saint Joe’s didn’t get any women on campus until 1970.
G: Kinda wild to think about, and clearly you have to deal with a lot less foot traffic and a lot fewer residents issues back then when you only had 30 students, back then it was just Saint Joe’s college, it didn’t become a university I believe until later on in the twentieth century.
G: Later–so that was 1978.
P: Mhm, and between when it was first founded and when women kinda started to join the campus, they had already had a big building campaign of a million dollars, that was organized by Matthew Fortier. I believe I said that right?
P: Yeah And they wanted to buy twenty two acres of land in west Philly with that money, which they did.
P: So it kinda progressed from there, so there was the construction of Barblin, like I mentioned, which was a gothic architectural style building, that began in 1925, its dedication took place in 1927.
G: Right, and it, for those of you who dont know, Barbelin is essentially the landmark building of Saint Joe’s I would say, of you ever see any brochure or photography of Saint Joe’s, you’re probably going to be seeing Barbelin, because it’s sort of the most dramatic looking building we have on campus
P: Exactly and it goes acl to one of the reasons that its so popular because ot s a bell tower that doesn’t have a bell. So it’s an old wives tale that the Hawk will never die, which is the saint joes slogan is because there are Hawks that are living in said bell tower with no bell, and you would always hear the hawks over anything else. That’s why they always said the Hawk would never die.
G: A little bit of trivia, from the inside. And then at some point during the sixties as the student population did begin to grow, you know women still were not admitted but they bought houses on merion side. For those who dont maybe go to Saint Joe’s or don’t know much about its construction, it has a city side or an Overbrook side, and a Merion side. So one is in the city of Philadelphia proper and one is in Merion which is a residential area. So then they bought five residencies on Lapsley Lane, which are still in use today. Originally they were residences, they were actually houses–
P: They were legitimate houses back in the day
G: Right and they have been converted since to offices, there’s the office of the Provost. And then there’s Bronstein hall which–
P: Which is the one we are in right now
G: Yeah the communications–
P: Its set up like a house
G: And it shows
P: Its kind of interesting as Gavin had mentioned, because there are two districts, Saint Joe’s lies right in the middle of the two. City ave, the road at separates the two campuses is just like a normal heavy traffic road but, right down the middle of City ave or in the middle of McShain bridge which connects one of the residents dorms to the other side of campus where the dining hall etc, is that line of the two districts. So, kinda continuing with how it was being built in 1970 women were admitted, and then Saint Joseph’s actually recognized by the security of education by the commonwealth of PA in 1978, so they were finally able to change to university status,
P: Was when that happened?
G: Right and then there was sort of a big jump in terms of the way construction happened. a whole lot of things were built or renovated starting in around year 2000 so within the last 20 years or so. Mcshain hall was built which is what paige has mentioned as the dorm which connects the two sides through a bridge. Townhouses were built, chapel, MV hall which is the home of the Haub school of business, one of the biggest schools that attracts students to St Joes that’s kind of at the bottom of the hill. That’s pretty deep into the city side
P: Post Hall, Lannon, and Rashford. Lannon and Rashford are sophomore year resident dorms.
G: I lived in Lannon.
P: hahahahah and then they kinda just went more into, they broke ground in 2010, and notice the big jump in years here. So this is anywhere from 2000-2008 is when we are seeing a lot of these buildings being built that we mentioned. But in 2008 they got an acquisition for 38 acre episcopal academy in merion so it was the largest expansion since the move to city ave back when the school was founded
G: I am actually pretty sure isn’t that merion hall?
P: I believe that is merion hall
G: because I’ve heard that merion hall it used to be a high school and that is why it is sort of laid out like that
P: Exactly and they heard it’s haunted
G: Could be
P: We can’t attest to that but its just kind of interesting because one of the best things about ST joes is that they do have a lot of history. So barbelin like we mentioned is very historic and even just merion hall that is newer but it was something else it did serve another purpose before it was the school building
G: I’m a little bit as a complete aside, i’m pretty sure moore hall is haunted.
G: That is another sophomore residence building but as far as i know it used to be a maternity ward
P: I heard that!
G: It has a very spooky atmosphere
P: Really, I heard that. Catch us next episode where we will talk about which buildings are haunted
G: That’s gotta be a whole episode
P: That’s got to be a whole episode cause i did hear moore hall is haunted
G: It’s definitely not very comfy
P: Thats crazy, moving on
P: The university broke ground in november 2010 for the post academic center. Right?
P: So that’s on that side of campus and then the library extended with the 3 story 35000 sq foot addition to the drexel library and we still call it new side and old side. so you still have 2 very distinct sides but there is a very interestingly enough an overhead bridge inside the building that connects the new side to the old side. and there are elevators on the new side and the old side so this is a very good example of an addition where the old side already had an elevator so when you built the new side you built the bridge connect them it only makes sense to build another elevator so this is one of those examples that we talked a little bit about kind of adding additions for accessibility and how it kind of fits into some designs seamlessly and others not which we will find out in a little bit
G: Right, Dr. tudor who we talked to a little but in the last episode, Dr Tudor was talking to us a little bit about accessibility construction which is why we wanted to talk about the history of buildings in this episode and she was saying that sometimes when you are personally in a wheelchair or a person with an injury sometimes you could really want an extra elevator in a building in case of them breaks down. But it’s not all entirely practical because and elevator mabel added as part of a larger extension a few years down the line so that means having to deal with mobility problems in the shorter term but it doesn’t necessarily make sense to add something else if they are planning to do that in part of the renovation. So that is what they did in the library was originally the library on the old side just had one elevator and it still does but then they added they new side which is more of a learning commons and then that has its own library so now we have two means of getting up in case you can’t take the stairs or anything like that. And then villager hall was built
P: Yep in 2012 and that holds 400 beds for freshman and its kind of interesting because, Gavin and I are both juniors but when we were freshman, there were always. I lived in one of the older buildings I lived in lafarge and for a residence hall at least and they kind of have these sad rumors that “oh this building is going to be knocked down” “oh we are going to get rid of this one and this one” and so far nothing has happened yet but because we are going to talk about the SJU master plan I think it is kind of funny that maybe some of these things might come true.
G: Yes. So now we have and admissions center that– I think we inherited that in 2012 or 2013
P: We did.
G: And that basically is the biggest acquisition up until now.
P: They’re all very recent.
P: And in the grand scheme of things, comparing to when the school first opened to now, a lot of the things started taking place in the 2000’s so kinda makes you wonder granted that maybe the past 10 years or so is really when people started a more open discussion about accessibility, universal design, mental health awareness, etc. and maybe things that we should have been talking about this entire time.
P: But, in more of a 20th century, why we’re not making maybe accommodations and yeah they were in the library and in some of the other residence halls and things like that so there were things that were done don’t get us wrong, but in the grand scheme of things, maybe this is a good time to talk about the master plan.
G: Yeah, I think it is a good time to talk about it especially, given what we were talking about with Dr. Tutor that the design plans aren’t always coherent when it comes to accessibility. There’s not always a lot of thought given to how to get up and down between different elevations which is usually relevant if you’re going to Saint Joe’s.
P: Hawk Hill.
G: Hawk Hill.
P: It’s extremely relevant – the elevation.
G: And the amount of times we said Hawk Hill, over the course of this project is too many times.
P: It’s so ironic.
G: But, yeah we’re gonna be talking a little bit about the master plan. From, I guess from our perspective as students, as what we think is gonna affect or what we think the master plan is going to affect, in terms of overall design efficiency and maybe in terms of accessibility because like you said, and what we’ve tried to reinforce before, universal design is not about targeting anybody it’s about making a campus overall more efficient and there are some things that are planned that i think could do that, especially in terms of ensuring a little bit more campus safety, some easier ways of getting around.
P: A lot of them are safety based which is really nice because we have had, we’ve had a lot of issues but there are sometimes city ave is a very busy road. So it’s always something that you wanna be safe, you wanna make sure that you’re stepping back when the cars are moving really fast and just in general being really careful so, without further ado.
P: The plan.
G: The plan.
P: So this was just released a couple of months ago – this spring semester for us. So, I believe it was released around January or February of 2019, right?
G: I think so and I think as context for this, I think this was developed because of that massive donation that the university got.
P: Correct, so Saint Joe’s got —
G: It was a 15 million endowment.
P: 15 million dollars.
G: From an alumni, i’m forgetting the name.
G: McGuire right.
G: And i believe they were also part of the acquisition in the last six months i think of the arboretum.
P: They do.
G: Or no, the barnes foundation.
P: Correct the barnes foundation.
G: The barnes foundation. So that’s on merion side’s sort of just down the block essentially. It’s a walk away.
G: But in the wake of that, the university has been developing a plan to renovate some of the buildings and pathing on campus. One of the biggest things i’ve noticed is that they’re actually planning on building a proper quad. Which is gonna add a lot more pathways and its kinda going to replace some of the buildings that already exist. For one thing, it seems like it’s just going to completely displace campion student center.
P: Yeah it does look like that. So before we can continue, you can go to masterplan.sju.edu to look at the pictures that were looking at and we’ll link them below too so you guys can take a look maybe as you listen. But gavin’s right, the first thing that we noticed was the main campus district – there is no longer the campion student building it looks like there’s just… it’s a larger building that probably encompasses a lot where in accessibility standpoint, in a universal design standpoint, having most things in one place without having to leave the building, is a game changer.
G: That’s huge.
G: And I think that’s why a lot of things are focused in campion as well so I don’t necessarily see what is going to replace that system yet, but it seems like they’re probably going to be keeping things in one place. I know a lot of… a couple of the residence halls are going to be replaced actually. So, Sourin and LaFarge I think are just gonna be knocked down..
P: My heart, the rumors are coming true. I’m upset.
G: well, it looks like they’re replacing it with a pretty cool building
P: That will be nice to have a new building for students, i’m just emotional cause I loved it there.
P: But no, it’s good because it’s moving forward and it’s building a campus that can better suit more amounts of students, which is great, we attend a university that’s constantly expanding, and it’s one that we’re proud to be a part of.
G: And looking at the plan, it looks like it’s going to be multi-story, it’s going to have a lot of windows.
P: Looks beautiful.
G: This sort of press kit for the master plan is interesting because it’s clearly taking inspiration from other universities, which, tying into the podcast that we did, I think, last week?
G: Where we discussed SJU’s layout in comparison to other schools, they’re clearly looking at other schools for inspiration, which you know, shows a good attitude of forward thinking, I think.
P: I would agree, and I think it kind of shows, too, a little bit more about how we’re going to blend the old and the new. We are obviously still going to keep Barbelin because it’s so historic to us and to our campus, but it looks like we’re going to be integrating a lot of the same materials into the trying to match that stone work, that style, but in a more modern way as well. So like, the Maguire campus district is what they’re calling it, because the university’s footprint, just looking at the website and reading from some of the information they have here, is on the Merion side of campus. They really wanna “activate” the whole property, they said, they want to add this quad, Gavin was speaking of a recreation center, which is great, because as somebody who attends the gym here I can fully say this, you can quote me, it sucks.
G: It’s outdated for sure. That’s what I’ve hear.
P: It’s terrible, there’s not enough room, it’s very small, there’s not enough circulation in there. It’s just, I know I’ve had complaints for years and I know they’re trying to fix it, but it looks like one of the things they’re trying to do is make an athletic hub, and this works really well for universal design, they’re putting things of like together. So like the athletics hub will be near the gym, as well as new fields, as well as a tennis court, it’s all gonna be in the same area instead of spread out, the Merion side, the only ting is that I believe the basketball court will still stay on the Overbrook side. But other than that, they have a gym in there, so it’s still a hub for things put together, and hopefully that gym is re-done, because I want a new gym.
G: Right, and you know, condensing things in smart ways like you said is a really good step. In terms of navigation, too, I just thought of this, but looking at a lot of the buildings in the master plan, a lot of them have tall glass windows, I mean they’re like basically walls that are made of glass, which you see already a little bit on the new side of the library, I’ve noticed, but they list here that they’re taking inspiration from Sacred Heart University, which has a lot of buildings like that, and I think that for one thing they’re adding in a lot of natural light, which is helpful, but I think it’s also a little bit easier to navigate a building when you can see into it from the outside, I mean maybe if you’re looking for people or looking at the layout it’s a little bit easier to see it looking from the outside. Another thing is, this is a major thing…
P: This is a huge deal.
G: …That we’re coming back to in terms of safety, is they’re adding an underpass.
P: Yeah, so just to clarify and reiterate maybe for students who don’t attend St. Joe’s, there are the two sides of campus; they’re connected by the dorm, McShain, which has a bridge, right? But a lot of students don’t live in that dorm, and they’re not gonna go through that dorm just to use the bridge, so a lot of people stay and wait at the crosswalk on City Ave to cross from the Merion side of campus to right to hitting Villiger, right?
G: And there are two crosswalks, right? There’s one at the intersection with Cardinal Avenue, which is further towards Merion side, and one right near Barbelin Hall.
P: Near Lapsley. So on here it appears to be the higher side, so hear Villiger, on this higher side that we talked about more Merion side, not Lapsley. They want to make a City Ave underpass, so essentially they want to build what appears to be a tunnel that goes, but not a tunnel in the sense that you’re under the ground for long, it looks like it’s just for right under City Ave, so then students don’t have to wait at the crosswalk.
G: Right, which is kind of a major thing. And I’m torn on whether or not this is intended for accessibility, it definitely is intended for safety because we’ve had issues with how many crossings that have to happen across City Ave, there’s a lot of…for one thing, the commute is hard, you have to wait for a light to get from one side of the campus to the other. Or, if you wanna get over the bridge, that definitely is an accessibility issue because you can’t get up the stairs.
P: You cannot get up the stairs.
G: It’s Physically impossible there’s so many stairs leading up and down
P: Of course. And like the whole thing aside of like “Oh no poor you, you have to wait at a light.” And another aspect this bridge or this underpass has its upsides and its downsides. Its upside is that it does connect the campuses better. It would create a more unified look and probably assist in that way and would take students lesser time to walk to classes and it is a safety concern. But in another aspect just thinking of it, it appears that this underpass doesn’t really have any stairs to it from the pictures but I am assuming in an elevation sense if your going underneath the road that you are as level on the other side in a sense. Not in a ditch if you will cause we are on a hill. So to go under I’m just thinking in like an aspect of just analogically thinking I’m assuming there is going to be quite and incline.
P: To get out of the hole you just walked in.
G: Right, which could work to the schools advantage because crossing at a light is a safety risk even if your able bodied. If you have an injury your getting across the road slower and there is a higher chance of something going wrong. With an underpass like this though assuming that it’s inclined in a smart way that’s not too steep and there’s no hidden steps or anything which I don’t think there are. That could be huge because people will no longer have to wit to cross the lights and people will no longer have to rely on the bridge. So if you deal with issues regarding mobility that can be extremely helpful. It looks like there is only one of them.
P: It looks like theres just the one.
G: So that could be a traffic issue.
P: Perhaps, yeah.
G: Person to person traffic issues it could get kind of congested but overall I think it’s probably a good step.
P: And it’s a hole…you can still use the crosswalk just if you wanted to go down what looks like a small hill to go underneath the road to walk up just a little bit more they also created the…its now that path continues to go. And hits the current path that currently go around Villiger and it looks like they put in some steps, like a little cove out into villager lawn. Which is kinda nice, there is a good little area and it just makes more sense it seems to have both as a thing, it doesn’t look like theres gonna be much of a difference I don’t know though. Lets zoom in here Gavin.
P: Yeah so it looks like you do go down this hill under the city ave, and it looks like there is a slight incline there if you will but i’m assuming it’s gonna have to be a little drastic now.
P: Your gonna have to go under a road that’s kinda hard.
G: At the same time though they seem to really be spreading it out far. That’s something that I’m noticing about this plan that I really like, looking at it from a design standpoint. Is that it seems like there’s no big changes in elevation. They’re spreading all of these pathways across very long distances and I think that’s helping them avoid the issue of having to go up and down steps.
G: I’ve noticed in a lot of places where there are steps, you can easily build a path there. I know the path further along down to the Nicoletti music building past Merion Hall they have a ramp right next to the steps. Sometimes I wonder why they do not expand the ramp because it’s pretty easy to just walk up the ramp.
P: Exactly, and you know what that is something we are trying to address is, whenever we are 3D mapping and our 3D mapping team is getting to work they are very cognizant of that cause they want to make sure they are including things like that. Like “oh by the way,” this is an elevation, this does have two stairs, you know this has something, you know what I mean.
G: A big part of the project is looking around not just for things that could be changed but also things that work and maybe an approach that we could expand to the rest of the campus. It seems like they are taking that into consideration which is good. There is also a lot of building renovations.
P: A lot of building renovations, it seems like…see something Dr. Tudor had mentioned to us was that it would be cool to have like a bridge or something that goes from one building to another. Which she’s right, it would be awesome, but in the same breath she also said that having a lot of things put together would help a lot. It looks like instead of doing these bridge ideas they are, they are doing the latter of it. Which is they are making a big building in the main campus district which looks like it’s going to house a lot of classrooms, dining halls, the rooms for people to do meeting, everything at once so you don’t have to leave the building. Once you get there you can stay for a while.
G: Yeah, I’m seeing a whole lot of continuous buildings.
P: Exactly and it looks like they are emphasizing that with these “hubs” that they call them like the athletic hub, I’m assuming they are going to “hub” other building together. So it’s kinda cool to see how we are approaching it in a new way that maybe kinda keeps some of our campuses current flow and just adding to it.
G: So overall paige in terms of your opinions.
G: How big of a sea change do you think there’s going to be if it all works out the way they’re proposing.
P: So if it all works out I think this would be a pretty good change for the campus. I think it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Do I think they could revisit the plan and look at more aspects of accessibility and universal design. Like I mentioned I am a little concerned about the elevation of that underpass from walking out of it from going underneath the road to going level again, I am assuming it will be a gradual hill not just the normal, probably a gradual hill. So that it something I would be concerned or interested to see how they are going to address. But in the same breath I really like the idea of helping everything together and I think the way they’re approaching it is kinda cool to see how they are blending the styles of campuses and create something that is modern yet traditional that we already have. What do you think Gavin?
G: I agree with a lot of those points. The biggest concern I have. Well Saint Joes kind of deals with a double whammy. In terms of it’s mobility issues I notice.
G: I think this is going to be a big step. Like I said a lot of them are contiguas and laid out in a very organized way as a opposed to some of the older buildings. It seems like they’re probably going to make accommodations for elevators and clear labeling and things like that or at least I hope they are. They don’t say a lot about what they are going to do to the interior of the buildings which is understandable because they haven’t started any of this construction yet. A big deal is not only getting to one side of campus to the other but the main overbrook campus there is the issue of getting from the lower belongs to the higher buildings. The parking lot at madville hall outside the arena and at hawks landing which is near lannon and rashford hall that’s a whole lot of parking that is totally isolated from the rest of the campus.
P: Right, it’s a hike.
G: And you know Dr. Tutor was talking a lot about her issues with parking. Because she can’t use any of those resources.
P: There is no good way for her to get to her car.
G: She is separated by stairs pretty much anyway you can get to from where the building where her office is. So I can’t get a really good read on weather of not this plan is going to change that. Although if they take the same approach to that area of campus. From Barlbilin Madiville the Arena leading up the hill to where the students center and some of the freshman dorms are. If they are taking the same approach as that pathing as they are with the quad and the underpass on the merion side I think this could actually be pretty significant as a change and I’m hoping they do that, maybe I’m not looking at the plan right.
P: I think this could really be a step in the right direction I really do. Looking at again Gavin and I are new at this so maybe that anything that Gavin and I are missing we would love to hear from you about what you think about the master plan. Write us email us dm us on Instagram we really want to know what you think about the Saint Joseph’s University campus master plan for 2020. Do you think it’s going to happen? Do you think it’s going to work? And do you think going to help accessibility and universal design.
G: Of course and we’ll probably be chasing this down a little more as a resource a little more.
P: Of course.
G: it’s actually something pretty relevant to what we’re talking about thats about to happen in the next year. Which is pretty cool. We will be getting to you guys in the next time in the next couple of episodes about this sort of thing. But until then I think we can sign off.
P: We’ll sign off.
G: Thank you guys for listening.
P: Thank you so much, tune in next week and make sure to check out instagram, blog, and website at projectbloom.sju.org.
G: Bye guys.
P: Thanks so much.