Now You See Me, Now You Don’t
As students abandoned Rudolph Hall at the beginning of summer, mountains of trash spewed out from bins and littered the floor, still damp with tears and Elmer’s glue. The thought of freedom filled everyone’s minds. While some daydreamed about eating gelato in Rome, acquiring a tan at the beach, or wearing new suits to their first day at RAMSA, others were stuck here in Rudolph Hall. Not the kind of stuck where you find yourself back in school simply because you don’t know what else to do, but the kind where you actually have an obligation to be there. Things happened that most of you won’t ever see or experience. There is something special and uncanny in the summer banality of Rudolph Hall.
While you were away, the building continued to live a weak, quiet life. Studios were so empty that one could hear every cough, every clack of a keyboard, and every footstep reverberating off the concrete walls. Traversing the taupe and paprika spaces felt like panning through the movie set of Synecdoche, New York; something didn’t feel quite right. Since there were so few people in the building, one felt impelled to say hello to any passerby – even those you would never greet during the school year. The fourth, fifth, and seventh floors were closed off, so the likelihood of running into someone on the accessible floors was high.
This summer I befriended the janitors, the security guards, John Blood, and the Architecture Foundations students (they don’t call them Viz I kids anymore, R.I.P. Viz). Richard became my biggest ally, while the DM guys couldn’t wait to get rid of me. One day, Rosalie begged for a visit to her desk to be relieved from her boredom, and Tim hobbled up to the sixth floor to comment on how rested and happy I looked.
Summer is strange here in Rudolph Hall, and few of you have any clue.
John Blood whipped out a personal printer and a separate scanner from his unassuming tote bag during the middle of a Viz IV drawing session, refusing offers from his TAs to use the school’s all-in-one printers instead. The Retrospecta editors burst into cheers and snapped their fingers in the air every time they completed a portion of their book. Architecture Foundations students tore their hair out over the idea of hand-drawing axonometric staircases. Our heroic janitors vanished the piles of garbage, leftover materials, superglued desks, and abandoned model bases. The traces of trash that once exploded from all corners of studio disappeared, and new computer monitors stood shiny and proud on top of pristine desks. The entire building was wiped clean of our presence, as though none of us were ever even there.
Today, Rudolph Hall will take on a new life as students filter through the building and come down from the buzz of an end-of-summer high. For another academic year, we will claim this building as our own: our work space, our home, our jail, and our bubble away from the real world. We will become a seemingly integral part of Rudolph Hall and fill it with our experiences and creations, only for them to be erased again next summer. The building will continue to live on without us, for we are merely temporary inhabitants in this concrete shell. In a year or two, other ambitious academics will take our desks and our favorite seats in Hastings Hall, and all of the things we accomplished here will become nothing but traces of our own memories. Like the experiences I viewed from near and far this summer in Rudolph Hall, everything that happens here will mean nothing to anyone but those who profess these memories as their own.