The N Building was freezing cold, dark and isolated. The P Building, in contrast, is far more welcoming, and its extensive array of windows results in better, more natural lighting and a transparent appearance. According to the students, the building offers other benefits besides: improved communication between the associations and a ‘more professional look and feel’. One drawback is that the associations have fewer opportunities to express their individual identities.
Hiding below street level
While the change of location takes some getting used to, it was definitely a move in the right direction, say most students. One aspect that has remained the same is a certain lack of visibility: while the N Building was tucked away in some remote corner of the campus, the P Building is more or less hiding below street level, under the square in front of the Aula. However, the students have developed their own solutions to this problem.
For example, Pia Uhlenberg (Exchange Participant Manager at AIESEC) tells us that at the end of summer, AIESEC members made an instruction video that shows how you can find the P Building and reach their new office. AIESEC can send this clip to members and other people who plan to visit them on campus.
Drinks in the garden
And accessibility-wise, things have actually improved since the video was made: you can now find a staircase running from K.P. van de Mandeleplein to the P Building. The stair leads to a court garden that is lined by the various association offices. This doesn’t just help people who plan to visit a particular association; it also creates new options for the associations themselves. ESN President Sander van der Neut tells us some of his ideas: “Now that the court garden can be accessed from the square, we hope to organise activities there more often – drinks for example. And the associations are also easier to reach for students.”
Another advantage brought by the move is improved collaboration between the associations. In the N Building the associations used to be spread across multiple floors. Now, they’re all on the same floor, have a number of shared spaces and meeting rooms and share a kitchen. Because at the new location, students are now longer allowed to have their own electronic appliances like a fridge or coffee maker in the offices.
While the shared kitchen is a bit further down for the active members of UniPartners, it definitely has advantages for them too, according to UniPartners’ marketing manager Dana Braber. She’s noticed that it encourages interaction between the associations. The different board members run into each other more often and have a chat. Talking around the coffee maker in particular can lead to closer friendships.
Joint opening party
A prime example of closer collaboration between the associations was the joint opening party they threw for the P Building in November. The party was a huge success. By working together, the associations were able to procure extra financial support. For example, De Smitse arranged a bar for the event – free of charge – and there was a stage where student musicians could perform live music. The party was also possible thanks to the support of Studium Generale and the organisers of EUR’s 105th anniversary celebrations, ‘Science meets city’. The event would have never been this big a success without close collaboration.
More professional look and feel, less scope for individuality
Other improvements listed by the students include the larger offices and more meeting rooms. Pia Uhlenberg (AIESEC): “Our new premises feel more professional. As associations, we also feel more like an integral part of the university than before.”
The only major drawback named by many of the respondents is that they’re not allowed to personalise their offices. They’re only allowed to put up posters and the like using the ceiling rails or poster buddies. Screws, nails, thumb tacks and even tape are all off limits. As a result, many members feel they have very little scope to express their association’s unique character.
ESN president Sander van der Neut in particular isn’t too pleased with this restriction: “ESN’s identity is different to that of other associations. That’s also why we want to clearly show what we’re about. We feel rather cramped in our style occasionally.”
More than anything, ESA’s external relations officer Jan Potuzak and vice president Armands Paplavskis are sad that they weren’t allowed to move their old couch into their new offices.