Faculty voice dismay over Berry plans: 60 attend special meeting

by Jake Elberg | 11/4/97 6:00am

More than 60 members of the faculty gathered yesterday afternoon to discuss concerns about the plans for the 125,000-square-foot Berry Library, with most of them expressing their unhappiness with the library's current design.

Many who attended the meeting in 13 Carpenter Hall said they would ask to speak in front of the Board of Trustees in order to appeal for changes in the exterior design of the building.

Several members of the Design Review Committee -- the committee of professors and administrators which advises the Trustees on architectural decisions -- spoke, with all but one saying they oppose the current designs of architect Robert Venturi.

College Provost James Wright said the Trustees agreed in June that construction on the library should begin this spring -- and said the Design Review Committee endorsed the plans in August.

But as both Wright and committee members noted yesterday, not all of the members of the committee were present during the August meeting.

Wright said committee concerns were addressed last summer, but Drama Professor and committee member Margaret Spicer said a memorandum was sent to Wright on June 3 detailing the committee's concerns and said "very little has changed from that design."

Toward the end of the meeting, Art History Professor Joy Kenseth -- an executive committee member of the friends of Dartmouth Library -- said she would send the entire faculty a copy of that memorandum via electronic-mail, along with a description of the ways in which the plan has been changed since June.

Wright said the plans for the Berry Library will be put on display in Baker Library in the upcoming weeks so they can be "viewed by the entire Dartmouth community." The display will include a scale model and color sketches, he said.

The meeting began with Kenseth showing a series of sketches which she said showed the "huge mass" and "barrier-like quality" of the building. She then showed photographs which she used to demonstrate the building's similarities to mills, factories, shopping malls, government buildings and the prevailing style of 19th century Italian architecture.

Kenseth led the meeting, after she sent a BlitzMail message last week urging all faculty to attend the "special meeting" to review the library plans.

Though few of those attending yesterday's meeting expressed approval for the plans, Assistant Director of Facilities Planning Jack Wilson said Venturi's Berry Library design is a necessary part of responding to changes in the College.

"It's part of the painful transition from a college in the woods to a university in a semi-urban area," Wilson said.

After a number of professors and administrators voiced their concerns about the plan, conversation switched to the possibility of actually changing the Trustees decision to approve the plans.

Some, such as Classics Professor Edward Bradley, said they feared there was nothing they could do to stop the building from being built as planned.

"I don't know how we allowed ourselves to go this far," Bradley said. "I think it's too late to do anything."

Kenseth spoke of the possibility of taking up a faculty petition to have a full faculty meeting on the issue of the library plans, but later said she would ask the Trustees to allow her, or members of the Design Review Committee, to share their concerns with the Board when they come to Hanover Nov. 14.

Three students -- none of whom said they supported the current Berry plans -- also attended yesterday's meeting.

Although he did not attend the meeting, College Master Planner Lo-Yi Chan '54 told The Dartmouth he "strongly agrees with the plans as they are."

Chan said the important question is not whether the addition is different than other buildings on campus, but if it is appropriate to the school.

Chan, who designed the Rockefeller Center, has been on campus once a week since July said although the plan is not perfect, it is not as "extreme" as it has been described by Joy Kenseth and the members of the Design Review Committee who oppose the plan.

"My responsibility is to see that the campus, as formed by the buildings, makes for a rich experience for students and faculty alike," Chan said. "This whole project will do that."