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Ryan Gym: Where the wild things are

In terms of money and master plans – those things that make things happen at Haverford – I cannot defend Ryan Gym. Ryan Gym is not widely used by the student body, and some simply don’t know it exists. New plans are being discussed that would turn it into an academic center, complete with computers and study spaces, and even a fountain in the middle.

The improvement and modernization of spaces on campus should generally be recognized and applauded, but when Ryan Gym is transformed we will be losing something special.

Ryan Gym, unlike every other space on campus, is effectively untouched by all vestiges of plans or purpose or utility. Originally the main gym on campus, now it is little more than a hang-out space for students. This is, of course, exactly what the renovations are intended to fix, but it is also where that rough charm lies. Ryan Gym, you see, is an indoor wilderness, like an overgrown brush slowly overtaking a manicured lawn. Every couch that is moved, every nap that is taken, every random meeting/food party/movie screening held makes Ryan Gym a little more of uncharted territory, a space that reveals its secrets reluctantly, and only to those who know it well.

I’m not sure how I first discovered Ryan Gym. It was likely a sporting event that led me to its couches and TVs, and to undertaking the intricate task of making the cable and sound work at the same time. In the past, Ryan Gym was the place I went to watch a movie or a game (after Ohio State lost to Kentucky last year in March Madness I kicked the leg of a table so hard I injured my foot). This year, naps in between classes have taken precedence.

This type of charming decor contributes to the atmosphere at Ryan Gym.

This is, no doubt, a personal ode to Ryan Gym as much as it is any sort of reasoned defense. That said, it’s among the most Haverfordian of spaces on campus. It is utterly devoid of pretension and pomp – it is what you make of it and nothing more, nothing less. There is an organic warmth to Ryan Gym, a level of comfort that comes with familiarity, that more conventional college spaces like the Coop or a computer cluster in Magill will never be able to match. Maybe it’s the unplanned nature of it, or the secrecy in how there are never that many people there, or that I’m pretty sure there’s at least one person who just about lives there. Whatever the case, there is a certain indefinable charm to Ryan Gym. So with Haverford.

The renovation (gentrification, if I may stretch the word a bit) of Ryan Gym is probably inevitable. The space is inefficient, unruly and usually dirty, and no one’s going to include it on a tour. It must be tamed. Even so, Ryan Gym is the last of our wild spaces, and I wish it would stay that way.


PHOTO CREDIT – Thy Vo ’14 for the Clerk

One Comment

  1. Elizabeth Shipley April 5, 2012

    Great article Robert. Yes, too bad about nice old things being replaced by ugly new modern stuff which really lacks in character.

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