UB masons turn air intakes into art canvases

Air intakes will become a “focal point” of North Campus in the near future


UB masons will take another month to clean, patch and coat air intakes with special paint so students will eventually be able to paint murals directly on them.

UB masons have been working on concrete repair for the rotten air intakes around Clemens Hall for the past four weeks. These air intakes filter fresh air for the heating and air conditioning systems for surrounding buildings. 

Everyone seems to look up when they pass the construction by Clemens and Slee Hall, said Stephen Williamson, UB mason and floor man of the project.

People passing by ask Williamson at least once a day what the air intake structures are because they’ve never paid attention to them until now.

The air intakes have become rotten from moisture entering the concrete, according to Williamson. Once moisture enters, the inner steel bends and rusts, which is “why they look like a disgusting mess,” he said.

“They will become more of focal point [on campus] when we’re done with them,” Williamson said.

He said they appear to be “somewhat of a sculpture” because they do not look like typical air intakes.

Williamson said he isn’t aware of how much money is going into the construction or whose idea it was to repair or make them into murals.

Williamson said he spoke to a woman from the English department who is very excited about having her department paint a mural, but he said it might not be until next spring that the painting project comes to fruition.

He said the mural project is still in the design phase and he heard from sources that different departments are designing a mural for a single air intake, but the English department is the only department he knows so far that is definitely partaking in the murals.

Some students are looking forward to seeing the finished product.

“Honestly, I’m excited to see that happen just because I walk by this all the time and I just see these big gray cylinders and I’m like man, that’s not an attractive thing to see on campus,” said Yousef Jaber, a senior computer science major. “I think they’re making UB a better place so that’s definitely exciting to see.”

Jaber said he’s graduating at the end of this year but he will definitely visit UB just to see how the murals turn out.

UB masons are working on the project 40 hours a week, Monday through Friday, until it’s done. Their job is weather-related and they stop once it begins to snow.

Victoria Kirsch, an apprentice working on the project, said the project is a good experience and she enjoys working on construction.

She said a lot of people have come up to her during the day to tell her it’s nice to see a female doing construction because it’s not something they normally see.

Williamson and Kirsch have been working at UB for two years.

“It will be fun to see the outcome [of the project],” Williamson said. “After we put our hard work into it, we’d like to see the end gain.”

Hannah Stein is the co-senior news editor and can be reached at hannah.stein@ubspectrum.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HannahJStein