For RISD to have a “student space” on campus it would require several core characteristics in order to be successful. Success, in this case, meaning being accepted as a social gathering place and utilized by a diverse group (departmentally, ethnicity, age, affiliation, etc.).
For students to consistently come to a place and care about a place they need to feel a sense of ownership and belonging. A potential student space at RISD needs to, first and foremost, reflect the people who use it. Whether that is the selection of beer, events being held, or work being shown, the space needs to constantly evolve to seem both important and fresh.
Possible ways of creating a sense of ownership to the space is to allow the space to be controlled by students. An organization like student alliance could take part in controlling the space. Also, the space could have shows of current student work ( like carr house) both departmental and not. In addition, the space should allow for some type of spontaneous evolution (ex: bathroom stall walls) where another layer of communication and community could grow.
Because studio work plays such a huge role in life at RISD, a student space needs to cater to this fact. The space could address this issue both physically and abstractly. The space could physically have a common shop and work space open to all departments and years, and be monitored 24 hours a day. Also, it could be a place where elective classes are held to bring different majors in one studio. Abstractly, the space could be open 24 hours a day to serve a student body that abides by no sleep schedule. During these hours it could serve good coffee, food, and supplies.
Convenience is important in bringing RISD students into a common space. During most of the student interviews, students said that places like dining halls and the library were places were they felt a sense of community (outside of studio). A student space should include food, coffee, and supplies to attract students. This already exists at the RISD store/Watermark, however it does not attract students outside of being necessary to survive. Places where students go to, should be brought inside a student space (ex: Blue State Coffee @ the Brown bookstore).
Also, convenience should be reflected in other features in or about the space such are location, type of space, open hours, and events.
I understand it is a cliché to say this, but alcohol is a must to create a successful student space. This could be done in different ways, but alcohol would combine a lot of the other characteristics mentioned before (ownership – common place to drink, work/convenience – close location to relieve stress). It could be a subsidized (or non-subsidized) bar for students only, a place that sells alcohol, or a B.Y.O.B. space. Administrative issues aside, if there were a school run bar, especially a subsidized school run bar, it would be immensely popular and a great place to socialize.
Any student center at RISD cannot be labeled "student center." As artists and designers, we like to create our own space, we can't be told where to be social, where to have community. Like the current "student center" at the RISD store, if a space is labeled incorrectly it will be completely rejected.