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The Dartmouth
June 19, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Building backlash is new to Dartmouth

Although innovative architecture is often controversial, no building project at Dartmouth has stirred as much controversy as the plans for the Berry Library, which the majority of the Design Review Committee opposes.

The Board of Trustees has never erected a building against the will of the Design Review Committee -- as seems possible in this case -- and the faculty have never mobilized to stop a building's construction, according to College Architect George Hathorn, who chairs the committee.

It is too early to tell whether the faculty will oppose the designs by architect Robert Venturi, but 60 professors gathered in Carpenter Hall Monday to hear the committee's objections to the design.

The architect who designed the Rockefeller Center for the Social Sciences, Lo Yi Chan '54, said some members of the Design Review Committee did not like Rocky when the plans were unveiled in the 1980s. But the opposition to the building was "nothing" compared with the opposition some faculty members have mobilized to Berry, he said.

Before Berry, the largest controversy over a building proposal at Dartmouth in the last half century was over architect Wallace Harrison's plans for the Hopkins Center, which opened in 1961. Harrison also designed Lincoln Center and the United Nations building in New York City.

Most of the objections to the Hopkins Center plans came from alumni.

"Many alumni knew about the plans and felt that the building was inappropriate for Dartmouth: too big and not Dartmouth-like," Hathorn said.

There have been less significant protests over other buildings such as Bradley and Gerry Halls, Collis Center, Berry Gymnasium and the Rockefeller Center for the Social Sciences. Bradley and Gerry -- known by students as the "shower towers" due to its white and blue tiling -- also sparked a debate. But, Hathorn said, complaints did not arise until after the building's completion.

The plans for Berry Gymnasium also raised eyebrows, but the Design Review Committee decided the design was suitable for a gymnasium. The committee is merely an advisory board for the administration, and it has no formal authority.

The Design Review Committee eventually decided that the "massing and spacing of the building was appropriate because it was a modern building," Hathorn said. The committee was pleased with the post-modernist style integrated with some traditional neo-Georgian features.