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The Dartmouth
May 27, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

The view from inside

While the wind blew through unfinished windows, 15 people crept under heavy black tarps to glimpse the interior of the College's future.

Gordon DeWitt, director of Facilities Planning, led this small tour group, mainly faculty and administrators, through the maze of works-in-progress dominating the center of campus -- Rauner Special Collections Building, the Moore Psychology Building and the future Berry-Baker Library.

The tour group gathered Friday afternoon on Baker lawn and proceeded through the three buildings in varying degrees of completion. The group went first to Rauner where Reed Bergewall, assistant director of Facilities Planning, explained the particular combination of form and function that Special Collections requires of its architecture.

A storied past

Within the shell of former Webster Hall, which has housed everything from movie theaters to student rallies of the 1960s, the architects, Venturi, Scott-Brown and Associates, had to create a structure that would protect the thousands of fragile Special Collections manuscripts and preserve the original building's open space and historic character.

They solved the problem with a centrally-located, humidity-controlled glass case to house the fragile Special Collections manuscripts. The case is surrounded by two levels of reading areas, lit through two-story UV-filtered windows on all sides, utilizing all 37,000 square feet.

Bergewall said the first-floor space is intended for Special Collections reading while the balcony reading level will contain un-secured space for student study and reading.

Bergewall allowed the tour group to follow him around workers operating circular saws to the balcony sections for a view extending from Wheeler to Dartmouth Hall. Pointing at the restored ceiling, Bergewall described the new lighting system, which includes fiber-optic "twinkle-lights" that can change colors.

Bergewall said the southern wall will display a series of portraits of presidents in the memory of living alumni, from Ernest Martin Hopkins to the present administration.

In the northeast corner a portrait will commemorate Theodore Geisel '25, known to the literary world as Dr. Seuss.

Varujan Boghosian, a former art professor who worked in a studio in the lower level of Webster, will transform the west wall with a bronze cast sculpture.

When the College announced plans to make Webster Hall the home for Special Collections in Winter term 1995, students opposed the loss of the medium-sized performance venue. The Student Assembly organized a rally to convince the College to build a replacement for Webster Hall. The walls of Rauner may display a photographic histories of these rallies.

The College has not announced any specific plans to create an alternative medium-sized social space, although the recently revised Master Plan -- a plan that describes the future architectural changes at the College -- includes this as a priority.

Bruce Rauner '78, a venture capitalist from Chicago, donated $5 million to help fund the renovation of Webster Hall, now expected to cost approximately $9.6 million. He also donated an endowed sum to fund operations.

Moore's utopia?

After descending from Rauner's balconies, the group crossed campus and climbed up stairs again for a new view from the bay windows of the Moore Psychology Building.

A conference room contains the large arched window visible from behind Baker. By bowing out a similar bay window in a library and reading room on the east side, architects gave visitors a view extending beyond campus to Balch Hill.

John Wilson, the assistant director of Facilities Planning and adjunct professor of Studio Art who led this portion of the tour, said "there was a request by Dartmouth to make more public space and windows like these."

Wilson said there was extensive debate over whether to include the window, imported from England, but said he is pleased with the result.

Wilson pulled the group away from the window to descend to the basement, where they walked through corridors of small, box-like rooms constructed specifically for animal behavior experiments involving rats.

At the end of this secured area, Wilson showed the group into the public space containing two classrooms with 80 and 220 seats, intended to replace Filene auditorium and other Gerry classrooms.

When one group member wondered how the change would affect the Filene family donors, Wilson said the College has a policy of recognizing old benefactors in new buildings.

Electrical wiring is incorporated into the new classrooms' seating to potentially provide for individual student computer access. The College does not presently plan to use this wiring because technological advancements might out-date or change the system.

Wilson asked the appreciative group of faculty: "Can you imagine trying to teach with the clatter of 220 keyboards?"

Wilson said the hall of classrooms in Moore will hopefully extend into the future math building, planned to replace the present Raven House site.

DeWitt and Wilson said they hope the psychology department will move into Moore between March and June of 1999.

Bulldozers, at rest

At the close of the tour, DeWitt brought the group back to the largest and most controversial area of construction: Berry-Baker Library.

Standing in front of silent bulldozers and a worksite filled with everything but a building, DeWitt said it is important to remember "this is the largest project the College has undertaken in terms of money and square footage," suggesting that the project will take an equivalent amount of time as well.

According to Bergewall, the total project encompasses 160,000 square feet and costs $64 million.

"The biggest challenge was getting the utilities out of Elm Street," he said. These utilities include the data lines from Kiewit, all of which must be transferred to a protected tunnel during the first phase of construction, scheduled to finish in June of 2000.

Then the second phase, including the demolition of Kiewit, will begin.

Bergeroll said they plan to start excavating the foundation hole in late November. The foundation will underlay two large classrooms, a cafe, the main library corridor extending over the present annex of Baker and computer science and history classrooms.

The history department will move from Reed Hall to fill these classrooms.

A tour member then asked Acting Provost Margaret Dyer-Chamberlain what will fill Reed Hall.

"That is just the next set of dominoes," Dyer Chamberlain said.