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University transforms Bear’s Lair into lounge

New multipurpose study space in Graduate Center opens to mixed responses from student body

After trekking to the south end of campus and climbing up the set of spiral stairs to the Graduate Center E Commons, students will now find the University’s newly renovated Bear’s Lair. The revamped common area has replaced “a dark, outdated recreational fitness and under-used multipurpose space” with “a vibrant ‘neighborhood’ commons,” according to the project summary obtained by The Herald.

The Bear’s Lair ­— which previously served solely as a gym — now includes a study space, a living room space, a  multipurpose space and accessible restrooms. In addition, the renovated area includes a room with exercise  equipment and an improved sound and lighting system, according the project summary.

Currently the University has “no plans to remove the (exercise) equipment,” from the Bear’s Lair, wrote Richard Hilton, associate director of residential life, in an email to The Herald.

Since the space’s opening, student opinion on the renovation has remained split. 

Though she enjoys the “modern feel” of the space, Carmen Zheng ’19 said she still finds herself “defaulting” to the Sciences Library as a study space because the Bear’s Lair lacks computers and “a community understanding of acceptable noise levels.”

“If I were to think of ‘study space’ at Brown, there are plenty of places I would think of before I think of Bear’s Lair,” Jeremy Rhee ’20 said.

Students also expressed disappointment over the reduced gym space in the renovated Bear’s Lair. “It’s a loss that there is no gym space there anymore. Sometimes I like to work out late, so I would go (to Bear’s Lair) if the Nelson (were) closed,” said Anders Schreiber GS, the president of the Brown University Barbell Club.

Zheng echoed Schreiber’s sentiment and said that having to walk more than 15 minutes to the Nelson and change her schedule to cater to the gym’s fixed hours “disincentivizes me from working out.”

“I wish the University would just use the money it spent on renovations on revamping the existing gym; for example, (they could) buy new equipment to replace the broken treadmills,” she added.

In an email to The Herald, University Architect Collette Creppell wrote that “the wood floor in the multi-purpose classroom is a sprung floor that the students can use for physical activities such as yoga, exercise, etc.”

Other students said they welcomed the updates to the Bear’s Lair. After becoming accustomed to the accessibility and wide selection of lounges in Pembroke Campus, Sai Kurapati ’21 said the new study space is a great addition to the University’s south campus.

But Kurapati also said the Bear’s Lair did have some shortcomings. “I don’t like how there (are) no outlets. You have to go sit against the wall to charge your computer.”

After looking for a tango class in Grad Center, Caitlin McNally ’22 said she’s been enjoying the space ever since for its open views and its acceptability of quiet conversations.

When designing the space, the University tried to emphasize flexibility and connectedness by including areas for “less formal and more formal activity,” according to the summary. The renovation also replaced solid walls with transparent glass to provide students with views of natural daylight and greenery.

The University approved renovations to the Bear’s Lair in January  2018. The firm Lerner Ladds Bartels Architects, which worked on renovations to Morriss and Champlin Halls, designed the layout for the space from January through April. Construction lasted from late May to August when the new Bear’s Lair opened for student use.

Correction: A previous version of the Oct. 16 Herald article, “University transforms Bear’s Lair into lounge,” incorrectly referred to Carmen Zheng ’19 as Zhang on second reference. The Herald regrets the error.


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