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The Dartmouth
February 22, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Berry Library meeting draws 150 professors

Professors criticized the administration for ignoring the opinion of the Design Review Committee at a crowded meeting yesterday in which architects defended the plans for the proposed $50 million Berry Library.

More than 150 people attended the presentation by College Provost James Wright and three architects involved with the design of the building, but the debate did not begin until after the presentation was finished. Art History Professor Joy Kenseth and Design Review Committee member Robert McGrath voiced concern over the way the plans were reviewed.

"I resent the way in which our opinion has been overridden and the lack of due process," McGrath said. "There have been a lot of irregularities here."

The original building was expanded to include classroom and administrative space, but the revised plans were not shown to the Design Review Committee until May, Kenseth said. Even though a majority of the committee objected to the plans, the Board of Trustees approved the building in June.

"I think there's a very serious problem going on here with the process and who was involved with it," Kenseth said.

But Wright said the administration did nothing wrong, and approval procedure was conducted appropriately.

"I don't think we have a problem of process," Wright said. "We have a problem of result."

But architects hired by the College defended New York City architect Robert Venturi's plans for the building and said that some suggestions made by the Design Review Committee and art history professors would be impossible to implement.

George Freeman, an architect with Shepley Bullfinch, criticized Kenseth's proposal to divide the library into two smaller buildings. He said the bookshelves extend into the administrative wing, so it cannot be divided in two.

Carole Wedge, also an architect at Shepley Bullfinch, said the 35,000-square-foot academic wing includes 15,000-square-feet of library space, which is necessary to the functioning of the rest of the Berry Library.

Freeman said details of the design continue to change, and the architects consider some small changes, like tinkering with the colonnade on the building's north side. But he said a "wholesale change" like that advocated by many members of the faculty is unlikely.

Freeman said the building must be erected according to Venturi's plans, unless the Trustees decide to rethink the building's function.

Wright said he would "be surprised if the Trustees say they want to stop the building now."

Kenseth and two other opponents of the plans, will meet with three Trustees today to protest the design.

Trustees Kate Stith-Cabranes, Stanford Roman and David Shipler agreed to meet with Kenseth after her request to address the full Board was denied last week. Stith-Cabranes is the chair of the Trustee Committee on Educational Affairs and Facilities.

Kenseth, along with other members of the art history department, sent an e-mail petition to all academic departments asking that the exterior design of the building be reconsidered.

Wright has said changes can not be made to Venturi's design if construction is to begin on scheduled in the spring.