Plan invests in west campus

by Samantha Stern | 9/22/16 12:29am

Expect to see more scaffolding around campus. The College announced a plan on Sept. 8 to expand and reconstruct the west side of Dartmouth in an effort to connect central campus to the Connecticut river.

The “Green to Blue” plan is still in its nascent stages and is the result of a 2012 master planning effort by the Office of Planning, Design and Construction. Such an analysis is undertaken by the office about every 10 years to ensure that campus needs can be most effectively accommodated given the available development sites, said Lisa Hogarty, vice president of campus planning and facilities.

The Arthur L. Irving Institute of Energy and Society­ — a new inderdisciplinary institute aiming to solve global energy problems ­­— will stand at the center of the remodeling effort. The Green to Blue plan also includes the construction of a 180,000 square foot joint Thayer School of Engineering and computer science building in addition to the renovation of the Tuck School of Business. The new joint Thayer and computer science building, sited for Cummings Parking Lot, will be designed by Wilson Architects, a firm specializing in large laboratory buildings.

A committee composed of Thayer and computer science faculty have worked on planning this new interdisciplinary space since the summer of 2015.

Thayer is running into significant space constraints, Thayer dean Joseph Helble said, with a growing number of interested undergraduate major and non-major engineering students. Enrollment in engineering courses has skyrocketed over the past decade, and students are increasingly closed out of classes, he added.

Thayer saw 119 students graduate with Bachelors of Arts degrees in 2016. That’s about two times the number of engineering students that graduated in 1996, Helble said, and at the moment, the school does not have the faculty or physical facilities to accommodate the level of interest on campus.

As the divide between the digital and physical world disappears, Helble said that it makes sense for computer science and engineering faculty and students to be housed together.

“Virtually every device, every piece of hardware, now has software embedded in it,” Helble said. “[That] makes bringing computer science and engineering together seamlessly in one facility where students can interact with both faculties without barriers between them even more important.”

Although there are a limited number of courses – such as a class named “Digital Electronics” – that are cross-listed in the engineering and computer science departments, none are co-taught by faculty from each. While still in the brainstorming phase, a planning committee with Tuck, Thayer and computer science professors are envisioning new joint programs at the graduate level, a possible minor, a collection of undergraduate courses and winterim opportunities, Helble said.

Hogarty said that the new proposed buildings themselves will aim to promote environmentalism through heavy insulation, triple glazed windows and a central heating and air condition system.

The Green to Blue plan will better integrate west campus, which can oftentimes feel like it is “in the back of the house,” Hogarty said. In order to achieve this mission, trucks and trash will be hidden from sight in a new parking garage to be built beneath the new Thayer and computer science building. All new buildings are also intended to have a front lawn.

The Office of Planning, Design and Project Management is also proposing a pedestrian and bicycle bridge that will run over the town cemetery, from the Class of 1953 Commons to the river. In the design of the bridge, the office has been cognizant of the need to balance convenience with the fact that the cemetery should remain a place of serenity, project manager Douwe Wieberdink said.

Although there are no current plans for recreational facilities along the waterfront, the town has long-term plans to create a walking trail that would run largely around the river and form a “necklace around the town,” director of campus planning Joanna Whitcomb noted.

Whitcomb said that it might be surprising that planning at the College is very much like working in an urban setting like Manhattan. Dartmouth is constrained on a 250-acre site by the Connecticut river, neighborhoods in the east and the town of Hanover to the south. As a result, the long-term future of the College will entail expansion towards the north, she noted.

Only the construction of the Irving Institute is proceeding within a set timeline and budget. The rest of the plan is merely conceptual, and fundraising efforts will be needed to finance any additional construction outside of the energy institute, Whitcomb said.