News: Snapshot of new master plan released

The firm of Beyer Blinder Belle, the first new master planner for Dartmouth in a couple of decades, has added a page to its website announcing its Dartmouth plan. Of the four images on the page, only one shows a design. It is an aerial perspective view of a computer model of the campus, and it is meant to show the landscape plan rather than any proposed buildings per se. The official master plan website has not been updated yet.

Detail of BBB master plan

Detail of Tuck/Thayer area from Beyer Blinder Belle master plan image.

The image, although not a complete plan by any means, shows several notable proposals for new construction:

  • There is a big new set of dorms behind Mass Row. This seems inevitable given the site, but one hopes that South Fairbanks, at least, could be preserved somewhere.
  • Three or more new dorms are shown continuing the line of Fahey-McLane along the slopes of Tuck Drive. It is not clear whether the President’s House is replaced or incorporated into this group. One supposes that any dorm proposed for the end of Webster Avenue will be reached by a footpath leading from Tuck Mall, so it makes sense to shift it away from the Avenue and closer to the Mall.
  • This is intriguing: The top end of Tuck Drive is shown dead-ending before Fahey/McLane. That would improve Tuck Mall and reduce traffic on the Drive, but it would also eliminate the Drive’s original and historic function as an auto road.
  • There are big changes at the pro schools: the remaining River Cluster dorms are replaced, of course, and the Maxwell-Channing Cox Apartments are also demolished to make way for something completely different. The Thayer School parking lot is finally given over to its logical purpose of supporting academic buildings. Aha: Thayer Drive, which brings traffic up the hill from Wheelock Street, is routed all the way to the west end of the plateau before it skirts the River Cluster area and reaches Whittemore Circle. Bleh: suburban. One hopes that this scheme is meant to be a shorthand for “more development” rather than a concrete proposal. Again, this landscape snapshot cannot be taken as an explanation of the final version of the overall master plan.
  • An extension is added to South Fayer or Bartlett, or maybe both. This is an excellent idea that prior plans have floated.
  • A big new athletic building, probably, is shown on the tennis courts across from the Sphinx. It connects to or replaces (one hopes not) Davis Varsity House.
  • A boxy front extension of Wheeler Hall is shown protruding into the quadrangle there. Hmmm. It is hard to tell whether the quad on the other side of Wheeler is filled with new construction or is omitted from this landscape plan.
  • On Berry Row, a new building replaces Raven House, and a new building is shown between Kemeny and Moore. Good. But that latter building extends westward to Main Street, eliminating the NAD House, Phi Tau, and Alpha Theta. Not so good.
  • The area north of Maynard is inscribed with the curving Romantic paths of Berry Row instead of the efficient rectilinear paths of the Green or Tuck Mall. But it is nice to see a green armature woven through the blocks from Berry all the way up to the LSC. New buildings are shown opposite Moore Hall and at the NCAC site along College Street, as expected. There’s another one shown near the center of the block, expanding upon or replacing Kellogg Auditorium. This makes sense, and people will be relieved to see the Med School keeping its campus from spilling behind Vail or beyond the LSC.
  • The Choates are replaced with a linear double-ranked row of buildings. The landscape here will tie Berry Row to the Roth Center, making this spoke/tendril appear to be a small-scale counterpart to Tuck Mall.
  • Sargent Block: The plan suggests that the Sargent Block master plan be carried out in some fashion. Notably, no building is shown on the FO&M/Shops corner.
  • Rich created a precedent when he put mirror-image row of buildings behind Dartmouth Row, probably based on a plan by Charles Eliot. VSBA identified the double row of buildings as a distinctive type and a useful form. MRY used it in the McLaughlin dorms. Here, BBB plans several double rows: Behind Mass Row, where the form has been anticipated, as noted above; in the Choates, where both rows would be created at the same time; and behind Dick’s House, where such a row would provide valuable organization in a long-unplanned space.
  • Some other buildings not mentioned above: A dining hall/student center stands on the street to form a southern end to Mass Row, connecting Thayer, Robinson, and Collis. This is an old Larson idea, a good idea if the building is porous enough to allow pedestrians to reach Psi Upsilon and Wheelock Street; a rear extension for the Murdough Center; and a replacement for North Hall and the Choate House. Choate House is an 18c house that has already been moved twice and really must be saved somewhere.
  • It is interesting what this landscape plan leaves out — the areas around the buildings on East Wheelock and Park Street, the athletic facilities of Chase Fields, College Park and most of the science buildings, La Casa and its neighbors, and the McLaughlin Cluster. It is not clear whether this means “no change” or “not important” or just “not part of the main circulation system.”

Overall, the image suggests that the plan will be notable for its restraint. It does not set out to expand the borders of the campus.

[Update 11.15.2013: President’s House item altered, items after Sargent Block added.]

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