It was an event as eagerly anticipated by the students of Warwick as the release of Guns ‘n’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy was by fans of old-school American rock. On Monday of last week the new Students’ Union building was finally opened to the public with Friday paying host to its official launch party. But the big question on everyone’s lips is whether the rebuild will prove to be worth the wait? Or will it turn out to be the biggest disappointment since – well – Guns ‘n’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy?
The rebuild certainly has a lot to prove; it has been eighteen months in the making with the ever-changing estimated dates of completion becoming a running joke amongst the Warwick community. In addition, the re-build has cost £11 million which, in a world gripped by the credit crunch, is an eye-watering amount of money. The expectation will be highest for second year students, who have had to wait until the second term of their second year to have a proper Union building and First-years too will be expecting great things as a result of having endured a rather lack-lustre Freshers’ Week due to the delay in completion. The general sentiment is that after having endured months and months of noise, disruption and leering builders then the new building had better be something special.
So how does it shape up? Well on paper it certainly has impressive credentials; it boasts several new eateries including a Jacket Potato outlet to tick the obligatory healthy lifestyle box, a revamped Bread Oven complete with a greater selection of fillings and for the quirky amongst us a rather kooky vintage tea shop celebrating traditional English afternoon tea. The stylish new Terrace Bar overlooking the plaza will no doubt make us feel as if we are in an episode of Sex and the City, whilst the Copper Rooms will hopefully attract the sort of big name bands that other Universities such as UEA and Newcastle frequently pay host to.
As for the decor? The jury is still out. The Union describes its new building as ‘vibrant, cosmopolitan and contemporary’, although the shiny new surfaces and glaring white paint is perhaps more reminiscent of ‘emergency room chic’. The open, empty atrium, while quite impressive from the ground or leaning over the balcony, seems somewhat lifeless in these early post-natal stages. For all its shabbiness, the old Union building had a warm, sociable atmosphere which it seems the new clinical aesthetics will have difficulty to recreate.
Still, only time will tell. Once it has a few thousand bodies packed in, some cheesy tunes blaring from the speakers and that all-important questionably sticky floor then maybe the Union will evoke the good memories of old. Hopefully in time we will grow to warm to and eventually even love our new Union building. Let’s face it; nothing can possibly be as bad as the TES after all.