After decades at Language and Lit building, department moves across campus to former law library, revamped and ready to go
Literature is rife with interpretations of home: There’s no place like it in the “Wizard of Oz”; the land Scarlett O’Hara lives on in “Gone with the Wind” is like her mother; Jay Gatsby’s is an opulent façade disguising an empty man.
For lit lovers at Arizona State University, home recently became Ross-Blakley Hall.
A unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the English Department’s move from the G. Homer Durham Language and Literature building on the north end of campus to the newly renovated, former law library was one of necessity and opportunity, CLAS Dean Patrick Kenney said. It will be joined in its new location on the south end of campus by the rest of the CLAS faculty — from such departments as life sciences, economics and geography — in Armstrong Hall, just north of Ross-Blakley.
“The idea behind the move was twofold,” Kenney said. “One, to create a CLAS campus, because we don’t have that kind of identity — engineering and business both have that kind of identity, where everything is located in one space but we’ve never had that. And second, to have a more updated space to showcase humanities.”
The Institute for Humanities Research will also share space with the Department of English, on the first floor of Ross-Blakley Hall.
For some, the move has been bittersweet. Graduate program manager Sheila Luna spent 20 years in her office at the Language and Literature building. At first, she was hesitant at the idea of moving after all those years. Then she saw the new space.
“It was like, ‘Oh wow, this is really nice,’ ” Luna said.
On a recent afternoon in August, she and Glendolyn Neumann, who works in business administration for the English Department, took a quick break from moving to admire the architecture and abundant daylight in the entryway of Ross-Blakley Hall while construction workers put the final touches on drywall and flooring.
“It’s definitely more modern,” Neumann said. “And before, we were all spread out over campus. Now we have the chance to be in the same building at once, which is exciting.”
The space maintains its original three stories, but gone are the rows of towering stacks crammed with legal texts (the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law moved to the Downtown Phoenix campus last summer). They’ve been replaced by open floor plans divided into “neighborhoods” made up of shared desk spaces for teaching assistants and faculty associates; more private, enclosed enclaves for small meetings and student consultations; and fixed offices for more established faculty and staff.