It’s beautiful, stylish and modern, but completely unfunctional – that’s what some students will tell you when you ask them for their first impressions of the Polak Building. Criticisms of the brand new Polak Building are fairly severe, because after all, what’s the use of a study building that seems to be short on places where you can actually study? Erasmus Magazine held a quick survey.

Mewan Sofi, 24, Management of Governance Networks student (MA)

On the rare occasions Mewan is fortunate enough to find a spot in the Polak Building, she tends to be unable to focus on her studies. ‘Because I’ll be joined at my table by a group of students who will be loudly discussing their assignment.’ The Polak Building is her favourite study haunt, because it is such a beautiful building, ‘but I guess everybody feels that way, which is why it’s always so crowded here.’ Over the last few weeks, there have been several times when she couldn’t find a spot. ‘My advice would be to make a few study rooms available exclusively to small groups of students who are working on an assignment together. That way, other people will be better able to focus on their work. And I wouldn’t mind having a few more computer rooms, either.’

Marvin van der Heijde, 22, Arts and Culture Studies student (BA)

Especially on weekdays, Marvin will make the odd attempt to find a study spot inside the Polak Building, but since the building was opened, he has only been able to properly study there once. ‘The building is beautiful, but not very functional. Modern, but not all that practical. The study rooms look very generously sized, but there’s less space than you might think.’ In addition, it’s not always clear if a room is being used for a seminar or whether students just decided to occupy it of their own accord. ‘If you can see a lecturer, it’s pretty obvious, but I’m not even sure you can actually reserve a room like that.’ Marvin feels the stairs are too narrow and there aren’t enough spots with power points. ‘And the loos could be cleaner too.’ Generally speaking, he will search every single floor for a spot to call his own, only to end up discussing whether they will go and check out all those floors one last time. ‘When I can’t find a spot here, I generally end up going to the ground floor of the Theil Building. I can usually find a spot there.’

Iris Lindeboom, 23, Management of Governance Networks student (MA)

Generally, Iris likes the Polak Building a lot. ‘It reminds me of MC Escher’s “Endless Stairs”. I find it quite an inspiring spot to study, and this building is always my first choice for a study spot. I like the earthy tones, and there’s something industrial about the building, which is obviously appropriate here in Rotterdam.’ She also likes the classrooms, [benches/sofas] and planters, and the way in which light filters through the building. But as far as Iris is concerned, there is still room for improvement. ‘I have no idea how to print something around here, how to go about it and where to go.’ She also feels that vending machines should have a different range of products on every floor. ‘A little while ago, we wanted to surprise a fellow student who was celebrating his birthday with a cupcake, but we couldn’t find any. A little variety is a good thing.’

Nina Wang, 18, Liberal Arts & Sciences University College student (EM spoke to Nina in English)

Nina likes to go to the Polak Building to do some studying both on weekdays and on the weekends, but even on weekends the building is generally quite full. ‘I think every student likes to come here, so in that respect, there are too many students and not enough study spots. I generally have to check every single floor to find a quiet table.’ Sometimes she will come across someone occupying a whole table with all of his or her things. ‘If I’m really desperate, I may say something about it, but then again, I do understand why people would want to have a table to themselves when studying.’ Nina would like to see more silent zones in the building. ‘The top floor is the only place where you can study in silence, and all seats tend to be taken there. As far as I’m concerned, we could do with another silent floor.’ Like Iris, Nina is critical of the vending machines. The coffee machine has taken her money several times without providing her with a cup of coffee in return. ‘It’s happened to several students, but according to staff, they can’t do anything about it. They’ve told me to contact the owner of the machine. On the one hand, that’s fair enough, but coffee is essential to students. If it happens that often, they should perhaps consider offering coffee for free, by way of service.’

Polakgebouw opening Escher
Het trappenhuis van het Polakgebouw is als een lithografie van Escher. Image credit: Ronald van den Heerik