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Carrying out your prison sentence in B-building

“To the architect who designed B-building: I hope you get fired.”

The words were written by an anonymous student on Spotted at Algonquin, and the writer is not alone in their opinion — as of Jan. 29 the post has 241 likes. Similar feelings about the building have been voiced often and more strongly than that for years.

B-building stands apart from the rest of the campus and it only takes one step into its dimly-lit, drab interior to notice the difference. The building is nearly 50 years old and openly showing its age.

The crooked hallways of the ground floor are too narrow for a school of Algonquin’s size, and are covered in off-colour tiles better suited for the changing rooms at a public swimming pool. They remind me, in fact, of the hallways of the underfunded schools I went to back in Bulgaria.

The centre of the floor is occupied by a large sitting area, where bolted-down tables and chairs convey the sense of elegance and comfort of a mall food court.

Venturing up an equally-crooked staircase that seems to be made of cinder blocks, you find yourself on the second floor where the lights of the study areas speck the glum hallways like the fires sometimes lit by vagrants inside the gutted-out interior of an abandoned building. These lit areas stand out because, despite the skylight above, little natural light reaches here: a shortage of windows pervades this floor, as it does every floor of B-building.

The lighting is appropriate, because it helps hide the general wear-and-tear of every inch of public space on the floor.

Slow-moving elevators — with facing mirrors on either side that make you feel crowded even when you’re alone — take you to the top floors, which are laid out like the final levels of an old-school shooter game. To get anywhere, you would need to go through a counter-intuitive maze of hallways so narrow that passing by people involves an uncomfortable shuffle against the wall.

A Narcity article from last year sums up the vibe given out by this building really well with a single line: “Something about the B-building creeps me out.”

The interior has given birth to an interesting local urban legend, namely that the unfortunate edifice was the work of a prison architect. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough out there to substantiate the rumour. Zofia Jurewicz is the only architect who we could find who was involved with B-building’s design, and no prisons feature in her portfolio.

It is worth noting, however, that the building remarkably follows some of the conventions of classic prison architecture. A central skylight serves as B-building’s primary source of natural light, and it overlooks a large court-like portion piercing through the middle of the building: both features are found in almost every penitentiary in North America. The bolted-down furniture on the ground floor is also of the type you would find in a prison cafeteria.

When contacted, the Algonquin Physical Resource Department had nothing to declare. There are currently no upcoming major redesigns or renovations planned for our own mouldy shrine of outdated architecture.

For the foreseeable future, it seems B-building will remain just as strange and gloomy, a unique feature of the Woodroffe campus.

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