Blossoming into New Spaces at SI: Building the Campus of the Future
Digital rendering of a planned common space
Since its establishment in 1855, SI’s Jesuit influence has encompassed the San Francisco Bay Area. Despite moving five times before landing on its sixth and current campus in the Sunset district, St. Ignatius College Preparatory has withstood various plights including the infamous 1906 earthquake and fire on the Van Ness campus.
Today, SI aims for a different type of campus change and hopes to build a new learning commons that will positively impact all members of the community.
During an interview with the head of the ambitious plan, SI’s Vice President of Advancement Mr. Joseph Vollert shared information on the administration’s idea to expand the North side of the campus. This new construction would rebuild space between the Oradre Courtyard towards the Jesuit Residence and McGucken Hall. In place of these structures, there are plans to build a new learning commons which would include a new dining center for all Wildcats and faculty, modified classrooms with an emphasis on technology and small group learning, a library, and many other advancements. Alongside these new buildings, a “hub” will be created to provide a main entrance to the school and a secondary seating area.
A planned small group learning space
As he discussed the specifics of this project and new buildings, Mr. Vollert shared his thoughts on the impact of the new learning commons. He stated, “With the change of the learning commons, I think it will inspire teachers and students to explore different ways of learning.” The hope of the learning centers will be to divert from traditional classroom settings and instead display an approach focused on advanced infrastructure prepared to adapt to the growth and spread of technology in tandem with learning. Although the importance of student teacher interactions still applies, this new facility will support the fast-paced changes within education. Due to the sheer size of the construction plans, SI will employ the use of “phases” to create stages within the lengthy construction periods.
Despite there being no specific start date yet, it can be expected that the construction period will be long and inflict some changes on the daily activities of students. In response to the temporary loss of space, campus ministry may be moved elsewhere as well as a new space for food service to provide for all members of SI. In regards to the new changes, Mr. Vollert shared, “Although it seems very ambitious, I don’t think we were out here to be demure.” The administration has worked diligently on these plans to physically build upon a new future for old and new Wildcats. The new infrastructure will complete the image SI intends to maintain as an advanced school prepared for the new terrain of learning and student life.
Upon the creation of the idea of the new learning commons, students were interviewed for advice and their perspectives. Their opinions were highly valued during this process as the infrastructure would improve upon the SI experience as a student. Megan Stecher '24, one of the interviewees, related, “I think it’s really awesome that SI is getting an update. The school can feel very crowded sometimes, especially during passing periods and before and after school, so having more room to spread out and quieter spaces to study will be a really great option for future students…I think this will benefit students and I’m excited to see how it turns out, even if I’m not here to experience it for myself.” As this process moves forward, many anticipate the positive changes this will create at SI in the long run.
Rendering of one of the new learning areas to be built
Although many more plans are yet to be formulated, the committee behind these improvements continue to receive feedback from parts of the SI community. The hopeful start date of construction will be June 2024 with a period of construction of about 18-24 months for the first phase of the large-scale build. In relation to the questions and responses of parents and families, Mr. Vollert concluded, “even though it is such a huge project, I think that people believe deeply in what we do as a school and the quality of education with the experience we offer. They see a 54 year old building in dire need of a face lift with an opportunity to build a facility that would allow us to adapt as technology changes.” Despite the interim creating temporary challenges, the renewed spaces and upgrades created by the new learning commons will inflict a positive change and uplift SI as it moves into the new age of technology.
Upon completion, the faculty and staff eagerly await the return of former Wildcats to roam the new spaces built to advance and provide for the journeys of many more students to come.
Jeslyn Oum ’24 is a Vol. 71 Associate-Editor-in-Chief