Two new lecture halls mark NJIT’s ongoing campus development. In October, the Hillier College of Architecture and Design (HCAD) held a grand opening for the newly renovated Weston Alumni Lecture Hall. Designed by New York-based firm MARVEL Architects, the halls were named in honor of alumni who donated to the renovation.
Lecture Hall 1, the larger of the two, is located on the ground floor of Weston Hall facing Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Holding 160 chairs, the lecture hall was designed to accommodate large classes and crowded guest presentations. Behind and above on the second floor, Lecture Hall 2 is more intimate, only holding 50 chairs. However, this reduced count allows for those in smaller classes to better engage with each other.
Both halls feature upgraded audio-visual equipment and row outlets for students to connect their laptops, further establishing NJIT as a tech-forward university.
While both halls saw their equipment and material finishes improved, Lecture Hall 1 was given priority. Polished concrete serves as flooring and plush chairs have replaced previously damaged seating. Each chair now has a private pull-up desk made of sleek metal and wood. In the front, a projection screen and several whiteboards are integrated into a warm wood paneling system. Grey acoustic paneling covers the walls, divided by concrete structural columns that were purposefully exposed during renovation. In the back, wooden bleacher-type built-ins provide passersby seating to view a presentation without disturbing others. As is tradition, NJIT’s signature red can be spotted throughout the room, ranging from graphical elements on the back wall to the bright red seats.
Students are already excited by the renovated spaces. Samuel Roberts, a fifth-year architecture student, stated: “The lecture halls are a major upgrade from the original space.”
From the beginning, students and faculty have been involved with the lecture halls’ design. In Spring 2019, MARVEL presented preliminary plans to the HCAD body and feedback was taken to better suit the halls to the college’s needs.
Construction began on Jan. 6 the following year and original planning hoped for completion in August 2020. However, COVID-19 brought NJIT to a halt and slowed progress on the renovations. It was only during this fall 2021 semester that the HCAD community could finally utilize the lecture halls.
A stress test for the lecture halls occurred shortly after the grand opening. Marion Weiss, co-founder of Weiss/Manfredi and Graham Chair Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, delivered the first lecture in the newly renovated hall. Lecture Hall 1 was filled, and in Lecture Hall 2, where the presentation was being streamed, half of the 50 seats were occupied. The halls excelled in their performance and left many visitors with a positive experience.
While the lecture halls have been warmly received by the HCAD community, some criticism remains. “I would have liked to see more seating over the padded spaces with desks, as the space now has less seating overall,” noted Roberts. Elizabeth Kowalchuk, a fourth-year architecture student, questioned who actually gets to use the new lecture halls, commenting: “No architecture students actually have class in it.”
Regardless of their current occupants, the Weston Alumni Lecture Halls have already become a pride of HCAD. Prospective students are touring the spaces and envisioning what class inside one is like. As NJIT’s student body grows, these lecture halls will provide many future graduating classes with an exceptional academic experience.