Our residence activities have so far taken place in the communal reading room, located on the floor above the canteen. The dominant impression is that this is a common space - that is, a shared space, where students take turns preparing for exams, just like they do in several other, similar reading rooms scattered around this building complex. Their objects, such as notebooks, notes, writing or drawing utensils, remain in the reading room during our stay in it - seemingly chaotically dispersed and disorganized. However, it seems that using the spaces and the objects in this way works just fine for the students.
Students are interested, engaged, and actively involved in project work.
The spaces of the two pavilions (the first and the second “phase” of the dorm), together with the canteen, form the entirety of this "campus". These are half-neglected, chronically unfinished, and incomplete spaces. The spaces made for passing through - this seems to be an essential characteristic, the basic function of a student dormitory as an institution, where generations of students rotate as years go by, and it is evident in everyday life: students mostly pass, meet, pass by. From the conversation with the staff, we learn more about the traces of these movements: the receptionist from the First Phase building tells us how she misses student gatherings, how students have simply lost the habit and are now gathering mostly in small groups, "here and there". Part of this is, of course, due to the lack of activities aimed at enriching the cultural life of the student community, such as film or poetry evenings, which have simply disappeared as a concept and as a possible reason for getting together. On the other hand, occasional parties are still happening, as advertised on posters hanging on the walls of the reception hall or canteen. Before we try to find possible answers to the question of the lack of content that would inspire gatherings within the student community itself, let's take a brief look at the "campus" space itself.
It is evident that in the existing organization of space there is no place for such a category - this, clearly, is not a campus. Nor is there a clearly defined core; save for the canteen, there is no gathering center that would promote and enhance mutual communication. Here we’re not even taking into account the taxing effect of social networks, or the legacy of the two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, which undoubtedly affected communication patterns among students.
Students largely live and dwell in spaces that have been shaped long ago and far from today's needs of not only the student but also the wider community, the city. Despite the fact that many of them are, so to speak, accustomed to living and working in what to the outside observer may seem like cramped, stuffy, opaque, and unlit spaces that this complex offers, students are not at all lethargic, especially when it comes to organizing their free time and work commitments outside of their studies. Based on the experiences of students from the workshops, it is clear that they have woven their small dorm spaces together with wide natural landscapes to which they occasionally escape (Tološi Forest, Gorica Hill). For this purpose, some physically closer but sufficiently removed space also do suffice - for example, the dorm rooftop. It offers scenic views and provides a different insight into the immediate surroundings of the student complex, which in recent years has been encircled by the new real-estate developments. Will the urban expansion eat up the quirkiness of student spaces in the city? We’re now wondering the same.
Author: Milena Vukoslavović