MU Student Center’s new tree enhances natural décor
The building decided to implement a natural theme to please students based on survey results.
Sep. 16, 2011
When construction for the MU Student Center began in 2007, those involved had a clear idea of how the new building would be different from the old.
“We knew all along we wanted to incorporate the outdoors inside,” Student Auxiliary Services spokeswoman Michelle Froese said.
Their answer: a large synthetic tree on the main floor.
The student center was designed to be much larger and more open than Brady Commons, which was known for its low ceilings and dark atmosphere. In 2000, when surveying students about what they wanted out of their new student center, administrators were surprised to learn students wanted to be closer to nature.
“(Students) wanted it much more open, and we were kind of surprised that students wanted to be connected to the outdoors because Missouri isn’t known for warm weather year-round, and that’s why we have those balconies because they were like, ‘Yeah, we want to be able to go outside or see outside,’ and obviously, natural light tends to make people happier,” Froese said. “The old student center had really low ceilings and it was dark and it kind of felt like you were in a basement no matter what floor you were on.”
Although it may be surprising to some, the plans for the MU Student Center always included plant life and natural lighting.
“Generally, plants are going to bring life to any space whether they’re real or silk material,” Tiger Garden staff member Kim Martin said. “That green color tends to make you feel like there’s life in a room, and I think that’s important, especially in rooms that are not as bright.”
Although the tree is made of synthetic material, the original idea was to plant a real tree in the building. Those plans soon proved unrealistic.
“It would have taken forever to grow a tree that big from a sapling, plus the floor wouldn’t support its weight with the root structure,” Froese said.
The tree was “planted” in the student center a few weeks before students returned for the fall semester forcing those who walk through the main floor to take a second look.
“At first, I didn’t notice it,” Froese said. “At first, I thought that I was looking out the window and I guess that is the point. That you are looking out into Kuhlman Court and you see the trees that have been planted there and then you realize that there is a tree inside.”
In addition to the abundant plant life growing throughout all floors of the student center, the high balconies and windows providing natural light create the feeling of being outdoors.
The idea is not pleasing to all.
“I don’t think they should have a big tree,” sophomore James Zang said. “The idea is good, but so many people walk in and out of the student center that it just kind of seems in the way. I think the wide windows are enough.”
Martin said people often look for plant life to liven up a work atmosphere.
“We’re constantly having people call us and telling us that they work in a basement and they need a plant, so we try to recommend plants that work in those types of conditions,” Martin said. “One of our biggest sale times of the year, aside from Valentine’s Day and things like that, is when students come back to school and look to buy plants for their dorms. I think greenery or agriculture in the room is something that people desire.”