By LAUREN BROWN
(Release originally posted here.)
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The university has opened the $30 million new home for the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, reiterating its commitment to the craft in an era of turbulence and change.
John S. and James L. Knight Hall includes 53,400 square feet of high-tech classrooms, multimedia labs, offices and space for professional journalism centers, bringing together all of the college’s programs under one roof. It features lots of open space, glass and light, suggesting the transparency of good journalism. Knight Hall is also the first “green” building on campus. Students began the spring semester there on Jan. 25.
“The state-of-the-art Knight Hall is one of the most exciting new centers for the study and teaching of journalism in the nation. This is a transformational event in the life of our college and our university,” said Dean Kevin Klose.
“We are indebted to the visionary leadership of President [Dan] Mote, and the Maryland legislature, and the generous support of the Philip Merrill family, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and scores of other charitable foundations, alumni and private citizens,” Klose said.
The structure is nearly double the size of the old Journalism Building, built in 1957 for $350,000, when the program comprised 100 students. It never underwent a major renovation even as enrollment expanded to today’s 650 undergraduate and graduate students. Faculty and students have described the building as dark, cramped, poorly ventilated and technologically outdated.
“It’s really hard to do inspired innovation in a cinderblock building,” says Assistant Dean Steve Crane, who oversaw construction since the groundbreaking in May 2008.
Knight Hall offers many architectural nuggets sought by former Dean Thomas Kunkel, starting with the Great Hall, which he called the family room or “hearth” of this new home. The two-story-high lobby extends the length of the building, with front and back doors. Groups of couches, flat-screen TVs, a snack bar and stools at a cyber café-style counter for computer workstations are designed to make this the building’s primary gathering space.
The Great Hall overlooks the East Lawn, a landscaped new courtyard that physically ties the journalism college to the Benjamin Building and Tawes Building and provides a common green space, says Kieran Wilmes ’97 of Grimm + Parker Architects. He and Steve Parker ’72 were the lead architects of the project.
Knight Hall is expected to be the first building at the university to earn a LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, gold rating. It features a high percentage of recycled content in its construction materials as well as regional materials, plumbing fixtures designed to reduce water use by 40 percent, an underground rainwater-collection system that will irrigate the property, and natural daylight providing more than 75 percent of its lighting.
The small and large seminar rooms offer video cameras and microphones that instructors can control to stream their lectures online. The Richard Eaton Broadcast Theater goes a few steps further, with 70 seats, a retractable whiteboard, rear projector, four robotic cameras and field cameras and a control room; it can be used as a classroom or studio.
The “news bubble,” also on the first floor, has been nicknamed the “students’ playground.” Open around the clock, the multimedia lab will offer capabilities for graphic, text and audio creation in a newsroom layout designed to let students work together.
The third floor houses offices and the professional centers: the Journalism Center on Children & Families, Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program, National Association of Black Journalists and American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors. The trade magazine American Journalism Review has moved next door to Tawes Hall, where college-owned cable station UMTV will remain. Fiber lines will connect the university’s TV station to the control room in the Eaton theater.
Studio C, nicknamed the “garage band space” on the top floor of the buildingmay be the most eagerly anticipated part of Knight Hall. Answering the pleas of faculty, Klose redrew the architectural plans to make room for a giant area where students can collaborate on multimedia production. It includes a section of audio recording sound-conditioned booths, a computer lab/classroom and a video studio. It will open later in the spring semester.
“The capabilities that the new studios will offer are what’s going to take our education from pen and paper into the digital age,” says senior Brittany Borghi, co-president of the university’s Society of Professional Journalists chapter.
Crane says the university has to offer these amenities to prospective students to stay competitive.
“There’s the equivalent of an arms race going on between journalism schools. Arizona State has a brand new [journalism] school. So does the University of North Carolina, Kent State, Syracuse, CUNY, and Medill. You go down the list,” he says. “This shows that we’re players and we’re serious, and that the university and the state believe in us.”
The state contributed $16 million to the building, with the rest coming from private donors. The building is named for the brothers who founded Knight Newspapers (forerunner of Knight Ridder), and later the Miami-based Knight Foundation. The foundation has given the university more than $21 million, including $5 million for the journalism school’s new home.