Curtis Hall isn’t the only Temple property that collapsed during the past few months.
A floor in the sculpture studio of the Elkins Building on the Tyler School of Art campus descended and gave out on Feb. 7.
“It sounded like a bookshelf falling,” said sculpture major Megan Bartley-Matthews, who was outside the sculpture studio that night. “But then it just didn’t end for a really long time.”
Four students, Eli Kessler, Dave Kim, Christopher Mahonsky and Rafael “Raf” Oddesey, all sculpture majors, were in the studios at the time of the collapse. No one was hurt.
Shaun Baer, a Tyler student, made a documentary a few days after the collapse featuring interviews with witnesses and the four students who were inside.
“I looked to my upper left and saw that the floor had broken and fallen about two inches,” Mahonsky said in the documentary. “So, I said ‘Dave the floor is going to fall down’ and we left the studio. And then we went into Raf’s studio and I said ‘Raf, what are you doing, the floor is going to break.’ And then the floor broke.”
According to Jack Boyle, the facilities manager at Tyler, the Tyler maintenance crew responded immediately and retrieved the equipment from the studio.
“Our first priority was to get all of the students’ equipment out of there, as much as we could, for two reasons: to salvage it; we couldn’t just rip it down, it was all their equipment, and to see if we could save the structure,” Boyle said.
The crew built a frame and slowly moved it up, stabilizing the floor and the walls.
“We really lucked out with their ability to work on this kind of structure,” Boyle said. “They were able to jack it up and it fell back into place.”
The crew had the studio secure and able to be used in three days.
“We had our own carpenters and electricians; we have a very capable staff,” Boyle said.
According to Oddesey, as the walls were lifted, metal stock and other things from the studio upstairs became caught in the walls.
“There are a lot of things that are trapped in the floor,” Kessler said. “But the main thing is that no one got hurt and there was a speedy recovery of the architecture.”
The consensus among the maintenance crew and faculty is that a combination of age, the quality of the craftsmanship and the weight the floor held led to the collapse.
“Originally, that downstairs space had a partition in it. The partition was taken out and the partition acted as a partial support,” said Winifred Lutz, a sculpture faculty member.
According to Boyle, a beam gave way, causing the collapse. Boyle said further investigation has shown that “there was a lot of heavy material in the studio, which may have led to it.”
Jude Tallichet, a sculpture faculty member, said the studios were made to hold heavy materials.
“When we had the studio built we had it built for storage and we told them to make it extra heavy because we were going to store heavy stuff in there,” Tallichet said. “Nobody ever told us there was a weight limit.”
Art projects were damaged or lost and supplies were also damaged.
The students who were in the sculpture studio were shaken but resilient. In Baer’s video, Kim even jokes about the whole experience.
“‘Would I die for my art?’ is really the question I’ve been asking myself,” Kim said. “And the answer is no. I wouldn’t even hurt myself for art. I mean, why am I here? I should be at Penn State, you know, with my accounting major.”
The sculpture students have set up an exhibit in Penrose Hall featuring some pieces that were saved from the collapse.
“We were able to come together and make something beautiful out of something so tragic,” said sculpture major Joy Holland.
Plans have been set to bring the art school to Main Campus. It will be located on 13th and Diamond streets, east of Presser Hall. It’s projected that construction will be completed in June 2008 and the building will be operational by August 2008. Construction has not begun.
Carolyn Steeves can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.