Breaking New Ground
Dartmouth's Georgian architecture creates a distinct campus feeling that is one of the strongest selling features for the College. Although picture-perfect, these facilities unfortunately do not provide for all of the community's needs. We need more dorm beds, improved academic facilities and additional social space. New buildings must be built -- but expansion does not need to compromise the comfortable feel of Dartmouth College.
Unlike many of our Ivy League counterparts, the Dartmouth campus does not suffer from a feeling of claustrophobia -- yet. The buildings are well-spaced, and there is not a feeling that facilities are being piled on top of each other to fill the available space. Berry Library is a cruel exception to this campus feeling, crunched into space hardly sufficient for the major library. As the administration plans the expansion of the campus, they might want to take into consideration the community's reaction to Berry.
Another plan, which, like Berry, has received critical attention in its planning stages, is a plan to connect Collis, Thayer and Robinson Halls. Such action will take three distinctive buildings and combine them into one generic facility. This move will only serve to detract from the architectural feel of the campus. On a campus that draws its appeal from its colonial architecture, adjoining student buildings will create a metropolitan eyesore abutting the Green.
Dartmouth needs to build new facilities in the style of the old. If the College could build Baker Library in the 1920s before the advent of power drills and cement trucks, then they can certainly manage to build something of that quality in the 21st century. The interiors of buildings should take into consideration modern technology and the needs of the campus, but aesthetically, the exteriors should blend in with Dartmouth's character and feel.
In the wake of Berry's aesthetic failure, the College needs to stop and listen to student opinions. What do students think about combining three distinct buildings in the center of campus? What architectural styles best reflect the spirit of this community? How can new facilities be built that both satisfy current needs while working within the traditional framework? Expansion is necessary, especially when it fulfills the needs of the community. But, as Dwight Eisenhower observed: "Dartmouth is what a college should look like."