Construction on temporary house structures begins

by Joyce Lee | 1/5/16 7:58pm

Construction began last week on a new house community structure — one of two new temporary buildings planned to augment the new residential housing system. The buildings will provide extended space for programming and social interactions as part of the new undergraduate residential system.

The first building currently under construction is located on the south side of the Gile and Hitchcock residence halls and is scheduled to be completed in July, vice president for campus services Lisa Hogarty said. The larger of the two new buildings, the structure will be a traditional wood-based,two-story building.

Once complete, the building will be a place for activities for School House and Allen House, two of the new residential houses, she said and compared it to a family living room.

School House consists of Massachusetts Row and Hitchcock Halls, while Allen House is made up of Gile, Streeter and Lord Halls.

The second temporary House center, to be built on the south tennis court next to Alumni Gym, is scheduled to begin in March and is also planned for completion in July, Hogarty said. The facility will serve as an extended social space for South House (Topliff and New Hampshire Halls and the Lodge) and North Park House (Ripley, Woodward and Smith Halls). The building will be a one-story tent-like structure that will, despite its description, be fully functional as an indoor facility, she said.

Hogarty said that the purpose behind the construction of these two structures was to provide facilities with enough flexibility so that students could experiment with programs that could take place in the new spaces.

“We want to really understand what works well and what doesn’t as the House system itself becomes more mature, so that when we have an opportunity for renovation at the residence halls, we’ll have an understanding of what type of space is most successful for programming,” Hogarty said.

The structures are intended to be temporary so that the College can evaluate the type of spaces needed for student programming, Hogarty said. She noted that future renovations will be based on the information gathered.

“Before we move forward with [renovation], we’d like to build temporary structures with enough flexibility so students can make the space their own,” Hogarty said. “We wanted to figure out what makes a great space for students before updating the residence halls themselves.”

Dean of the College Rebecca Biron, who is overseeing the House communities planning process, said that the structures will also help equalize the amount of social space available for the students in different new House communities, as not all student residential halls have the same amount of available space. They are intended to serve the same purpose as spaces such as Brace Commons in the East Wheelock residential cluster or Occom Commons in the McLaughlin residential cluster.

“They’re designed to allow multiple kinds of activities from informal hangouts to group functions that are more formally organized,” Biron said. “The programming that might happen in them would be decided by the House communities themselves, by students and professors.”

Noah Manning ’17, a member of the student advisory group that has been consulted during the planning of the new structures since last spring, reiterated Biron’s idea of equalizing residential halls in light of the new House system.

“If you’re going to ask students to live [in certain residence halls] for three years, you need them to feel that it is fair, so the fact that some living spaces have large gathering places and others do not would have created a large disparity,” Manning said. “The goal was to create a central gathering place that all students could feel part of and come and go from. It was an attempt to give a more centralized identity to those students.”

While the structures are primarily meant for the students of the residence halls in Houses such as School House or South House, other students are welcome to participate in programs or events held in the new spaces, director of residential operations Catherine Henault, said. However, the main purpose of the buildings will be to extend program space for the students of residence halls with no large common space, she added.

Biron cited student demand for more social space that they feel ownership of as a driving force behind the construction of these spaces. She said that the new residential housing system aims to let students build connections to a physical area of campus, creating a sense of belonging. She added that it would create a stronger sense of responsibility for the community of which students are a part of.

Hogarty emphasized the opportunities for students to expand their creative ideas for events at the College using these spaces.

“I think this is a really exciting opportunity,” Hogarty said. “What we’re trying to do is create a nice palate for students to paint on. I’m excited to see students use their imaginations and create the kind of programs that they’ve always wanted to have but haven’t had the space to conduct the programs in. I think the spaces will be as cool as the students allow them to be.”