Visual arts center plans uncovered

by Ben Nunnery | 7/18/08 4:00am

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Plans for a new $52 million visual arts center were released this week.
by COURTESY OF THE DARTMOUTH AEGIS / The Dartmouth

"[Committee] members had serious questions about the design of the building, mainly its size and color," Marilyn "Willy" Black, a member of the committee, said. "It's creating an urban landscape in what used to be a traditional New England town. It's gaudy and southwestern, and we're not. It's going to look funny with snow on it."

Steve Campbell, director of Dartmouth Planning and Design, said the proposed design, which is planned to house the studio art department and the film and television department, will fit in with its surroundings.

"Its only direct neighbors are the Hood Museum and Spaulding Auditorium, both of which are modernist and post-modernist respectively," he said.

Mary Gorman, associate provost and executive officer at the College, said the building will "enliven Lebanon Street."

Gorman pointed to Rollins Chapel and the Hopkins Center for the Arts as examples of Dartmouth's diverse architecture.

"Dartmouth is a place that does have eclectic architecture," she said. "Many of the buildings that are different have become iconic."

Dartmouth Liaison Committee member David Bradley agreed with Black that the structure was "too urban" for Hanover, but said the committee was pleased with some of the design's attributes.

"I think pretty much everyone was happy with the concept of such a building, one that would be Dartmouth's front door on Lebanon Street," he said.

Julia Griffin, Hanover's town manager, said she has not heard from many residents, aside from members of the committee. Hanover residents will be able to voice their opinions on the design when the town planning board begins holding public hearings, Griffin said. She added that the planning board has some ability to address architectural designs, but that power is fairly limited.

"Hanover does not have an architectural review board formally appointed like some cities across the state," she said, adding later, "Dartmouth is very open to that kind of feedback and works when it can to deal with different issues."

Building on the edges of campus, such as the new Life Sciences building, the Roth Center for Jewish Life and Moore Hall, tend to provoke more community reaction, Griffin said.

Black said she does not think Dartmouth would place the visual arts center anywhere away from the edge of campus, like near the Green, because of its modern design and brightly colored exterior.

"I want to ask them, 'If Parkhurst needed to be replaced, would they put the arts building in the center of campus?'" she said.

Demolition of Clement Hall, which currently houses both the studio art department and the film and television department, will begin in the next few days, Campbell said. Construction of 4 Currier Place, a three-story commercial building that will serve as the temporary home for Clement Hall occupants, is set to begin this fall and is scheduled to be completed by next summer.

The visual arts center construction should begin in September, the College said in a statement, and is set to end two years later. After the construction is completed, 4 Currier Place will house retail spaces on the first floor and offices upstairs, Campbell said.

The proposed design for the center includes features such as a 250-seat auditorium, digital film studios, individual animation booths and seminar rooms.

"To think about giving students a great space to really develop as artists is the most exciting part of this project," Gorman said.

Although Black has expressed her discontent with the design, she said she does not think the design will be changed.

"I think for them it is full speed ahead," she said. "They paid the architect, so I don't know that anything is going to slow them down."

Staff Reporter Allyson Bennett contributed to this article.

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