Berry opponents plan protest

by Jake Elberg | 11/5/97 6:00am

The art history professor spearheading the protest against the plans for the Berry Library addition will telephone the College President and Provost today to ask that opponents of the design be given time to complain to the Board of Trustees at their meeting in Hanover next week, she said yesterday.

The professor, Joy Kenseth, said she will follow the telephone request with a formal letter to the Trustees asking that they meet with her or members of the Design Review Committee in person to hear their objections to the design.

The plans for the 125,000 square-foot library addition -- approved by the Trustees in June and scheduled for groundbreaking in spring -- have met with disapproval from almost every member of the Design Review Committee, the group of professors and administrators who advise the administration on architectural matters. Opponents of the proposal say the building will look like a massive factory.

Kenseth said she will also forward to the entire faculty a memorandum sent to Provost James Wright on June 3. In the memorandum, obtained Monday by The Dartmouth, nine members of the Design Review Committee state that architect Robert Venturi's intention to make the building look like a mill is "highly problematic," and they recommend that the design be "fundamentally rethought."

Kenseth, a member of the executive committee of the Friends of Dartmouth Library, said opponents of Venturi's plans want to see how the faculty react to the memorandum before deciding whether to circulate a petition calling for a meeting of the entire faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Some changes have been made in response to criticisms from the Design Review Committee. But the details Venture rethought did too little to correct the plan's fundamental flaws, opponents of the design say. Wright and College President James Freedman say they support the current design, and most of the Trustees also support Venturi's plans.

Wright said yesterday that it is "certainly our intention to proceed with this plan in the spring. It is important to move the library ahead and have it completed on schedule."

Until the opposition to the building was made public on Monday, it was all but certain that construction of Venturi's plans would begin in Spring term. But in an interview with The Dartmouth yesterday, Trustee Susan Dentzer said there may still be a chance to stop the project -- even though the Board approved the plans in June.

She said the Board will consider faculty complaints, and the designs have not been completely finalized.

The number of people who have criticized Venturi's plans continues to grow. In an interview yesterday, architect Lo Yi Chan '54, Dartmouth's campus master planner, said the plans call for a building that will not correspond to other buildings on campus as well as it could.

Two important elements of planning a campus are a sense of history and a sense of connection between buildings, Chan said. "Those two things are extremely important, and I believe it is in those areas that the Venturi building has some failings," he said.

The Berry addition is intended to relieve overcrowding in Baker Library. The $30-million facility will include a student coffeehouse, varied study space and the office of administrative computing. It is the most ambitious building in the College's North Campus Expansion plan, which will create a constellation of postmodern buildings around a quadrangle of grass.