From the Issue: John Jay’s Restoration Project

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Be on the lookout for the February issue of The Blue & White, on campus now! Bwog will again honor our heritage/amorous affair with our mother magazine by posting features from the upcoming issue. Such treats include the first part of a discussion on the Columbia School, an investigation into Columbia’s animal testing practices, and a talk about, well, self-pleasure. Here, Will Holt gets to the bottom of John Jay’s fancy new flooring.

Illustration by Manuel Cordero, CC '14

In early 2012, the good people at Columbia Dining tipped some scintillatingly ambiguous news to Bwog: “Phase Two” of “the restoration project” in John Jay Dining Hall was complete (never mind that “Phase One” was never announced). The email boasted a “terrazzo floor” and the eradication of those awkwardly long communal tables. All of which, they assured Bwog, “really looks awesome.”

But even now, over a month after the announcement, pressing questions remain unanswered: What was Phase One? Where do we go from here? What the hell is terrazzo? To answer those pressing questions and assuage those disquieting fears, one must descend into the bowels of John Jay.

“This is a renovation project more than anything else,” Vicky Dunn, Executive Director of Columbia Dining, said reassuringly. Dismissing any accusations of revolution and radical change, she added, “We’re looking back to the original designs and trying to match that up to what you see.”

The designs to which she refers were drawn up in the early 20th century by McKim, Mead, and White, the architectural firm behind the original blueprinting of the Morningside Heights campus. “The terrazzo floor was in the original design,” Dunn said. “The first terrazzo floor had been covered up by cement before the quarry tiles were put in place.” Those quarry tiles are what you see while you wait in line for your omelet at Wilma’s—startlingly similar to the floor at your favorite McDonald’s.

As for the alleged Phase One, the lighting, ceiling, and fans were restored over the summer of 2011, just before students trickled in at the end of August. And yes, Phase Three is imminent. The dish room—the wet, oppressive crucible at the center of the John Jay inferno—will soon gain a composter and a newer, greener dishwasher to replace its current, outdated model.

For the next few months, then, resign yourself to the fact that your dining hall is one massive fire hazard. And take solace in the terrazzo, the lone glimmering gem in this decidedly rough field. Now for Phase Three and Beyond!

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