The radical redesign of Building H: How the redesign aims to enhance student success

Hannah Soukup, Managing Editor

The reconstruction of Elgin Community College’s Building H began on Jan. 4, 2023. Building H is the visual and performing arts sector of ECC, and as of December 2022, all the students and faculty within these programs were moved throughout ECC. 

Mary Perkins, the current dean of liberal, visual and performing arts has assisted faculty with this move and has been a large part of Building H’s renovation. As of June 2022, she transitioned from another division at the college where she oversaw the division of College Transitions and Secondary Partnerships.

“[The renovation] is much needed,” Perkins said. “It’s going to be wonderful.” 

Building H is estimated to be completed by December 2023, and Perkins indicated that the college plans to hold classes in the renovated building in January, 2024. The faculty and staff who are normally housed in Building H are currently located in other ECC campus locations during the 2023 calendar year.

“The 3D-art program is presently sharing a space with the heating and ventilation program,” Perkins said. “The theater department is located in Buildings F and G with performances being held in the Spartan Auditorium. The remainder of the programs are in Building K.” 

Perkins looks forward to the new updates happening within Building H as this will be the first large-scale renovation to the instructional spaces since the building was constructed over 30 years ago. Several new additions will be added to Building H as part of the renovation project. 

“[The renovation] will result in updates for labs and classrooms including expanded spaces, updated existing spaces, and enhancements to the building ventilation and technology infrastructure,” Perkins said. “These enhancements will help each of the visual and performing arts programs flourish.” 

Perkins has enjoyed her experiences working with the staff and has nothing but optimism towards what the redesign will bring. 

“This has been a really positive experience,” Perkins said. “I’ve gotten to work so closely with the faculty and staff, [and preparing for the renovation] has been a really significant accomplishment.” 

Similar to Perkins, Juan Fernandez, the director of art and design at ECC, has been a huge part of the process in expanding and improving Building H. He has focused on watching the construction first-hand and provided a tour of what exactly is happening within the construction process. 

“[The design of Building H] started in the late 80s and was built in the 90s,” Fernandez said. “We had a building that was built for an analog-world that wasn’t ready for a digital-world. So, we needed these updates. Labs that were dedicated to huge spaces for making are now empty because everybody has a laptop. We had to re-imagine what the future would look like.” 

As the construction had begun in January 2023, the construction crew has advanced quickly on creating new rooms and installing walls. 

“So far, it’s moving really great and they’re [the construction crew] making a ton of progress,” Fernandez said. “I was here a couple days ago and these walls [in the expanded printing room] weren’t even done, and now they’re insulated.”

Throughout the tour, Fernandez explained the changes being made in the art-sector of Building H. Several new classes are being implemented, and even more classrooms are being expanded. Programs that have expanded are now being provided the proper space needed to cultivate the amount of students that want to partake in such experiences. 

“We realize now that many of our classes are going to be drawing, painting and ceramics,” Fernandez said. “We need to expand those spaces so we can offer more classes for students.”

Several rooms that once went unoccupied are now being renovated into more useful things for the campus. A room that was once a design space is being constructed into a second painting studio based on the rise in popularity for painting courses. Design rooms are still being cultivated and expanded, while the renovation makes room for expanding and including other courses that students have taking a liking to. 

New rooms are being provided for students to experience a variety of different things. Aspects within this construction are not only beneficial for those within Building H, but also improve the ECC experience for students and staff within other programs. 

“These [two rooms that underwent construction] are going to be podcast studios,” Fernandez said. “In here, we’re going to have a three or four person table for doing legit podcasts. Rick Rodriguez is our instructor for communication and design who does a lot of video work. He is really into sound, as well. He has done podcasts portions of his class, so we decided to make it official.” 

To provide students with the opportunity to utilize tools and machines that were once only available in classrooms, a ‘makerspace’ is being included in the renovation. This allows for important machines such as 3D-printers or laser-cutters to be kept in one room for students to use. Ultimately, the storage and management of these machines makes them more accessible. 

As the art-wing is getting its fair share of renovations, so is the theater-wing. They’re getting a second-floor added and an expansion of rooms that were not designed to fully encapsulate all that goes hand-in-hand with their performances and courses. 

“It’s crazy they [the theater department] make whole sets, but they’re in a room that’s not very well designed,” Fernandez said. “The ceilings are 70-feet high so they wanted a second-floor. We’re adding a little bit there, adding a little bit more office space and just right-sizing what they’re doing now.” 

Key programs outside the art and theater departments are getting their fair-share of updates, too. The music and music-production programs are being provided their own ‘tech-hubs’ to help further what they can achieve within their classes. 

“Technology has changed, especially in the last 30 years, so we’re building an environment that will hopefully allow it to stay flexible for the next 30 years,” Fernandez said. “[We’re constructing] multiple recording studios, more technology and more music classrooms. We’re going to give them [the music-production program] their own space so they can be more successful.” 

Within the next year, ECC plans to have a better constructed area for those partaking in liberal, visual and performing art courses, but even for those uninterested in those courses. This all-encompassing reconstruction allows for more flexibility within students of all interests who want to express their creativity.