by Jennifer Ruisaard
Communications and journalism students and faculty suggest that fountains, flowers and fans are needed to spruce up the desert landscape that comprises the Communications Building's courtyard.
The group discussed how to redesign the courtyard during a March 27 goal-setting and space-planning session headed by Professor Lewis May, director of the Center for Urban Ecology in the UH College of Architecture.
"The campus is in dire need of exactly what we're doing here today," said May, also the director of the Lewis T. May Studio within the Page Southerland Page architectural firm.
May said UH journalism Professor Fred Schiff approached the Urban Ecology Center with the idea of transforming the courtyard into either a student pub, study area, outdoor cafe or garden area.
During the session, group members gave graphic descriptions of what their ideal outdoor setting should look like compared to other popular Houston spots.
UH School of Communication secretary Jean Richardson said no one has ever suggested anything like this before.
"They did fix (the courtyard) up once, four or five years ago, into a desert-type garden. But it went down the tubes after that," Richardson said.
Due to an oversight during the original construction of the Communications Building and the Wortham Theater Complex, the courtyard has neither a built-in watering system or an efficient drainage system.
As a result, most of the plants have died, except for the oak tree and bushes. Instead of grass, all that remains is dirt and rocks. There is no area where students can sit and do school work or relax.
Depending on the type of renovations done, May said the project could cost anywhere between $25,000 and $150,000.
"(We can) get the money from individuals committed to the landscape environment of the campus," May said.
He said the River Oaks Garden Club and the Houston Garden Club expressed a desire to be more involved with projects both on campus and around the city.
"People need to give back to the institution," May said.
May has been involved in other beautification projects on campus, including the atrium space in the Fine Arts Building. His architectural studio also has done, or is involved in, projects in Houston's Third Ward, the Heights and in the Houston Independent School District.
Through the planning sessions, May intends to get some further insight on what students and faculty want to do with the Communications Building courtyard.
The next session is scheduled for April 17, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Room 232 of the Communications Building.
For more information, call Schiff at 743-2864.
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