As with anything remotely different or some form of change on campus, the new Union has received mixed reviews from students. With its expansive sheet glass windows and striking wooden accents, the new building hits all the right notes for me. The Union as it stands now is exactly the right blend of old and new, evoking both a feeling of nostalgia and refreshing promise.
The enormous opening in the atrium looks down upon a multifunctional space which, during the day, plays the part of a sturdy surface upon which to place the snazzy new tables and chairs. At night, these are cleared away to make space for hordes of unwashed freshers scrambling to get into Top B. With so much open space, perhaps the smell might dissipate at a more pleasing rate.
It wasn’t until I looked upwards that I discovered my favorite thing about the new building. The roof is a fascinating structure. Yes, it may be the rather odd voice inside of me that loves straight lines and the combination of wood and new materials, but I think there is a definite beauty about the geometric regularity of the whole thing. During the day, streams of light pour in through the roof and illuminate most of the floor space. Whilst the previous Union fell victim to a (some might say depressing) yellow glow during some of the more overcast of days, the new space feels refreshing and spacious.
The Terrace Bar offers a slightly pretentious setting in which you and your fellow arts students can enjoy a double whisky and discuss the works of Jean-Paul Sartre. It also features a noticeable amount more copper theming. The roof is lined with highly polished copper tiles and the menus (oh yes, that’s right!) have a delightfully embossed cover in copper. I’m a sucker for lighting. Maybe this is why i was so quickly drawn to the bar with it’s seductive white glow around the bottom, making the whole structure appear as though it was floating in space. The whole thing felt much less like a student drinking hole but instead more like a place where you’d actually want to spend some time with a (slightly pricier) drink and watch the world go past. The terrace itself offers a perfect chance to re-enact that scene in Titanic, you know the one. Compared to the outside seating of the Duck, the Terrace offers a nice opportunity to be in the fresh air whilst still remaining dry.
It’s a shame that, at the time of writing, “Curiositea” is not open. I have highest hopes for this outlet out of them all. I have been informed that it may feature such quaint features as mismatched crockery and adorably labeled “eat me” snacks. It is my hope that the entire room feels like it has been lifted straight from Alice in Wonderland giving me the chance to, at every opportunity, exclaim “curiouser and curiouser” to the enjoyment of onlooking staff. By the time this goes to print Curiositea will be open and I will certainly be in there drinking tea and thumbing through a copy of Through the Looking Glass.
The Bread Oven also has seen its much-needed relocation to the new building. With new facilities to serve hot food (I’m assured), yoghurt on offer and much more space, this student favourite can now adequately accommodate the enormous queues it fetches on a daily basis. If you haven’t been to the Bread Oven yet (these people do exist, our very own games editor, Will Brierley, had not been until recently) I strongly recommend a trip. There is also a rather dainty little wagon serving fresh jacket potatoes with a variety of toppings. I’m yet to have indulged in one so can’t possibly comment further. If I were to guess, I would say the potatoes are both potatoey and encased in some form of psuedo-jacket-come-potato-skin.
The rebuild also sees the return of the pool tables complete with fabulous purple covering. It breaks my heart knowing that these will be encrusted with the remains of some ghastly yob’s purple before this moth/week is up. It’s also of mild concern to me that the pool section doesn’t immediately appear to be accessible once you are inside the Copper Rooms without leaving again. I’m not sure how this is going to work logistically should they allow you to play during events.
“But Doddsie”, I hear you cry, “I loved the old Union with its oddly charming 60s styling and maze-like layout.” Fear not, dear reader, for I have some charming news and a fun game for you to play with your chums/chumettes. If you spend any real length of time wandering about the Union, you can begin to see elements of the old Union. I took great pleasure in identifying the original home of the Bread Oven and Quench, and imagine you would too. Look out in future issues of the _Boar_ for the inevitable “spot the difference” quiz sheet I will produce for your enjoyment.
I suppose one of the best points about the new Union is the bigger acts it can now attract. This is due in no small part to the larger capacity of the venue. The more open design also gives more people a better view of the stage, something the old Marketplace fell short on.
A few issues ago the _Boar_ ran an article on famous music acts who have appeared in years gone by at the Union. It is my hope that we will once again play host to big-name acts like Radiohead and the Smiths. My real hope is that Enrique Iglesias will play a set comprised of a massively extended version of “Do You know?”, but deep down I know in my heart of hearts this will never happen. Ever.
This should also mean increased cash flow into the Union which, as always, will be re-invested into continually improving the facilities on offer to us.
Despite the delays I still feel the Union has done a rather good job of providing us with a place to socialise during the day and drink our sorrows away at night.