“Calling It As I See It”

Photo Courtesy: Mackenzie Ross

There’s a magic about the campus that draws people to Ole Miss. A perfect blend of historic buildings like the Lyceum and Ventress Hall coupled with state-of-the-art facilities like the new Student Union and the Pavilion. That magic is what Ian Banner, University Architect and Director of Facilities Planning, strives to maintain as he and his team work to adapt an ever-growing university.

“The magic is sort of indefinable, but we know it’s there and we know how to spoil it,” he said. “We’ve been very careful and have tried to grow without spoiling that magic.”

Banner has overseen the development and construction of countless projects on campus since he arrived on campus in 2004. No matter how big or small the project, if it involves a campus building, it has likely passed across Banner’s desk.

“When I walk into the office in the morning, who knows where the day is going to go?” he said.

Whether it’s presenting new ideas to university administration, meeting contractors on job sites or tending to issues like roof leaks or new carpets, Banner said he is involved with anything and everything relating to the campus’s structural developments.

Born in England, Banner said coming to Mississippi was a “happy accident.”

“My life had a habit of unfolding in an unplanned way, which is a bit ironic for someone who professes to be a planner,” he said.

In 1981, while in college, Banner visited the United States as part of a student exchange program. When he returned in 1985, he accepted an architecture position in Starkville.

“I finished work in London on a Friday afternoon, and I started work in Starkville on a Monday morning, which was an interesting shock,” he said.

From there, he became a tenured professor at Mississippi State University, then transitioned back to working in private practice before he accepted his position at Ole Miss in 2004.

In the 14 years Banner has spent in Oxford, he has worked on numerous major projects including the building of the Robert C. Khayat Law Center, the renovation of Lamar Hall, the construction of the Pavilion and current projects like the Student Union and the South Campus Recreation and Transportation Hub.

“I’m proud of that building because it’s the ultimate recycling project,” he said of the South Campus Recreation and Transportation Hub. “You might recycle something like a paper bag or plastic bag, but for this project, we recycled almost 200,000 square feet of building and gave it a new life.”

Banner uses ‘The Master Plan,’ a document he developed which charts the next thirty years of planned growth of university infrastructure. Renovations on the Student Union were part of that plan, a building that Banner said people have always loved to hate.

“When the Student Union is finished and opened up, I’m going to be modest here and say that it’s not going to be the biggest outdoor porch in the South, but the biggest outdoor porch in the galaxy,” he said. “The beautiful part of living in the South is that you can inhabit the inside of a building and the outside of the building which is something you can’t do in Northern Europe very often. We’ve got this great space which is not quite indoor and not quite outdoor and it’s the southern porch.”

One of the most challenging parts of the job is keeping up with growth of the University. Banner and his team have had to work on planning ways to expand the infrastructure as the student population grows. They determined that in order to house up to 30,000 students, the University would need to expand by about 2 million square feet.

“You can bury 2 million square feet of additional buildings on this campus very easily,” he said. “It is more wise to think about infilling campus, without going into new territory which would mean cutting down old forests or disturbing wildlife.”

When he’s not planning for the future of the University’s infrastructure, Banner spends time indulging in one of his favorite passions: soccer.

“I love Leicester City,” he said. “It’s my hometown, and I’m still crazy about them. I try to be responsible about it.”

He also serves as a referee for local high school soccer games.

“I get to do a lot of Oxford and Lafayette high school games, and I know there are people up there watching those games that I work with every day, so I just have to put that out of my mind and make the call,” he said. “Honestly it sounds a little corny, but you have to call it the way you see it. It’s how we have to do it here at the office, so I’ll go to Larry Sparks or the chancellor and I’ll do my best to call it the way I see it.”

Five years ago, Athletic Director Ross Bjork asked Banner to commentate on the SEC Network for Ole Miss women’s soccer games. He’s been doing it ever since.

“I love doing it,” he said. “I want to stay in touch with the game that I love as long as I can.”

This story will be featured in the 2019 yearbook.

Maddie McGee

Assisting Writing Editor

Maddie McGee is a senior print journalism and political science major from Baltimore, Maryland. She is this year’s assistant writing editor and has worked in the Student Media Center since her sophomore year. She enjoys reading, binge-watching Harry Styles concert videos and daydreaming about her eventual move to New York City.