Western neighbour draws new plan for residence
By Sara Marett
When Western's administration decided to build a new residence backing onto a residential street, they may have predicted there would opposition from home owners in the area. What they could not have known is that one of them would have studied architecture at Oxford University.
At a private meeting Tuesday night, members of Western's administration and concerned residents met to discuss conflicting opinions on the design of the 400-bed residence that will be built on University Drive across from Medway and Sydenham Halls by 1999.
The meeting took place in the home of Jay Casselman, a resident of Tower Lane, the street which runs behind the new residence. At the meeting, Casselman surprised those attending, including the architect who designed the residence, by proposing a newly designed building one he drew himself.
"I've come to terms with the fact that they're going to put a building there and [I] decided to have as much input as possible on how that building will look," Casselman said. Relying on his architectural education, Casselman surveyed the land and came up with a design that is close to what the university is proposing, but with the changes desired by the nearby residents.
Casselman's sketch moves the residence further west than the currently proposed location. "I moved it closer to the river so the 60 windows in the back will not look directly into the houses on Tower Lane," he said. His sketch also proposes a four-storey building as opposed to the five-storey model proposed by the university, but still contains room for 400 beds. It has a peak roof like Medway and Sydenham residences, instead of the proposed roof, which is level.
"The current model is disproportionate to the other buildings on University Drive and the neighbouring houses. Aesthetically, it does not harmonize with its surroundings, which is not a very attractive thing to do to your front step," Casselman said.
Tom Tillman, the architect who designed the proposed model for the university, said he is evaluating Casselman's sketch. As far as making any changes to the existing model, Tillman said it would not be him who would make that decision. "I take my direction from the university," he said.
Western's VP-administration Peter Mercer attended the meeting and had some reservations about Casselman's sketch. "I have to take direction from the architects and Jay Casselman is not an architect," he said.
Mercer said the major flaw with Casselman's sketch was the building violated the distance it must be set back from the flood-line of the river. This error was pointed out at the meeting and Casselman said he has since fixed the problem.
But Mercer said the sketch posed other feasibility problems such as the placement of stairwells. "We have to assume that if these changes were preferable, the architects would have designed it that way in the first place," he added.
Although the administration will be meeting again soon with area residents, Mercer said "There are, however, some concerns that will not be reconciled, that no amount of mediation will fix."
The proposed design will be voted on by Western's Board of Governors Jan. 29.