After months of planning, the remodeled first floor of the Student Organization Center at Hilles officially opened Wednesday night to cheers, public addresses, and free popcorn.
The renovation, which took place over the summer, is part of an Office of Student Life initiative to improve campus social space. New flat-screen TV’s, a pool table, sound systems, and even a Pac-Man machine were on display at the 6:30 p.m. grand opening ceremony.
“All of these renovations will and already have enhanced all of the student activities that are held in the SOCH,” said Undergraduate Council President Danny P. Bicknell ’13 in his remarks.
“The Event Hall no longer feels like an aquarium with the outside world looking in. Instead, the window shades, new dance flooring, speakers, and disco lights welcome you to Club SOCH.”
Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds, who has been a major proponent and planner of the SOCH renovation, spoke about how the new space will promote social and intellectual activities alike.
“It is really important to recognize the mission of the SOCH, which is to provide for student organizations at Harvard to have a space to create their organizations and sustain them,” she said.
UC Vice President Pratyusha Yalamanchi ’13 served as a member of the focus group and said that the design team was “really good about implementing student feedback.”
She said students involved in the planning were invited to try out different options for furniture and that one student’s idea for an arcade led to the addition of the Pac-Man machine and an Xbox Kinect.
During Wednesday’s opening celebration the SOCH was serving its purpose as a hub for student activities, with treasurers from student groups attending a seminar on financial organization in the renovated Event Hall. The room can accommodate lectures for up to 300 people and late-night parties for up to 499 people. A display near the room’s entrance touted its new dance floor, ceiling-mounted subwoofers and speakers, and party lights that perform pre-programmed effects.
“It feels like a real place now,” said Humza S. Bokhari’ 14, who was in the remodeled space waiting for his training to begin.
“I think the changes that have been made make it a place that is more friendly, more exciting. It gives you one more reason to go to the Quad.”
One goal of the project was to make the SOCH a more flexible space, according to student planners. For example, what was once a reading room filled with study carrels has been turned into the Community Hall, featuring iLab-inspired, wheeled furniture. The room now accommodates meetings and retreats for up to 50 people. The old carrels have been moved up to the second and third floors.
Students said they appreciated the open feel and looked forward to hosting events in the building.
“I think that this is a wonderful student space,” said Julia B. Konrad ’13, Vice President of the Institute of Politics, as she waited for her seminar to begin.
“I love the playful atmosphere.”
—Staff writer Quinn D. Hatoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.