The University of Montevallo Cafeteria is an interesting enigma on campus. It simultaneously creates an environment that is suitable for its main purpose, eating, while also reinforcing new ideals the University of Montevallo is trying to push into the public consciousness. The room is set up in a similar way to the previous school cafeteria; however, several changes have been made, both subtle and obvious.
Perhaps the most immediately striking feature of the cafeteria is its paint scheme. The room sports an extremely plain, white colored paint which gives the room a feeling of being clinical; this is almost certainly unintentional. Additionally, the ceiling retains a wooden frame which contradicts the stark white paint. This wooden frame conjures up a rustic feeling of a cabin which would typically remind diners of a down-home country kitchen. However, in the context of the clinical feeling conjured by the white paint, the wooden frames seem ironic and fail to create any feeling in diners other than confusion.
Throughout the cafeteria, there is a variety of tables. These tables range from tall bar counters to small, circular tables to long rows of connected rectangular tables. This suggests a need to create variety in all approaches to the dining experience. By not having a set table style, the cafeteria is allowing diners of any preference to have a place to sit in comfort. For example, a fraternity might prefer a long bar counter table so that small pockets of friends can sit together while being distant from those they are not as close to in their brotherhood. Conversely, a small group of close friends might prefer a circular table so that they are close to every single person and can speak to whomever they wish. What the cafeteria sacrifices in uniformity and military precision from their table choices, they make up for by fostering many different types of community and providing options. However, there is a danger that such a scattershot method of structuring a dining room could lead to a loss in ethos by making it appear that the dining company has no clue what they are doing.
The cafeteria also has an extension on the side of the building which is often considered the proper Anna Irvin Dining Hall. This area exists for a completely different reason than the rest of the cafeteria. Anna Irvin is all about creating the illusion of class and refinement. The room’s chandeliers and tall windows make the room feel more like the dining halls of prestigious universities like Harvard and Yale which have been around significantly longer than Montevallo. This hall is used mainly for luncheons and for entertaining other guests to the university, including touring prospective students.
By allowing potential students to dine in Anna Irvin rather than the typical cafeteria, the university is attempting to say to the students that the school is a place of refined taste and adamant tradition; however, this stands in stark contrast to the new cafeteria space.
The new space, with its post-modern design and accommodation of various preferences for dining, seems to suggest to its diners that it cares about moving forward and accepting new cultural standards, whereas Anna Irvin, with its uniformly circular tables and extravagant decoration, seems to suggest the aforementioned respect and adherence to rich tradition. By choosing to entertain guests and allow prospective students to dine in Anna Irvin, the university reveals which of the two contrasting identities it prefers to tout. Clearly, the university thinks that the post-modern designs of the new cafeteria will appeal to at least a good portion of its new students; however, the university is still stuck thinking that its tradition is its main draw for new students. Therefore, it ushers them away from the post-modern new cafeteria and puts them in a room with rich history and elegant taste.
Essentially, the new cafeteria and Anna Irvin work together to create the ultimate metaphor for the University of Montevallo divided in its desire to retain tradition and move forward into a brave new future.