Building a dormitory wall in College Park

The college has hired Sasaki Associates1 If this complex is built, the college should get another firm to handle the design. Sasaki’s Modernist college residential buildings look nice enough (see Regis College and the N.C. State project page and aerial) but they do not belong on this site. to come up with a conceptual design for a massive dormitory complex to be shoehorned between the Wilder Lab and Shattuck Observatory, on the edge of College Park (College Park Conceptual Design page, Dartmouth News article, Valley News article ).

The design brief calls for a capacity of 750 beds. That is more than twice the size of the East Wheelock Cluster (now East Wheelock House), including the later McCulloch Hall:

Andres Hall   84 beds
McCulloch Hall   78 beds
Morton Hall   84 beds
Zimmerman Hall   86 beds2 East Wheelock House site.
Total   336 beds

One of the goals of the conceptual design process is to “respect the ridge.” Keeping the buildings low, especially at the upper end of the site, will require the college to use all of the buildable land within the entire study area. This complex is likely to be a Byker Wall (Wikipedia, Google aerial).

(To truly respect the ridge, of course, the college would have to stack all of this dormitory space into a tower sited behind Richardson Hall. That idea was raised and dropped in the 1960s.3 As strange as a dormitory tower sounds in small-town New England, it was not too much for Bowdoin College (Google Street View).)

Terrace and College Park

College Park has been encroached upon for decades and is significantly smaller now than when it was created. The park could be a necessary building site some day, but the college is certainly not there yet. (And construction costs will be higher than average here because of the limits on access, the necessity of protecting trees and historic buildings, and the fact that the whole site is made up of ledges of bedrock: there will be a lot of dynamite required.)

This site was chosen because it is the only one that can hold all of the 750 beds the college believes to be necessary. The college could stand to think more creatively — there are plenty of sites around campus where new beds could be built. There is space for hundreds of beds behind Mass Row and in front of Davis Varsity House, both sites that have been reserved for residential use for years. There is a site behind Fahey/McLane. Closer to College Park, Andres could be extended to the west. Ripley and Smith could be extended to the west and east. Richardson Hall could stand to have a rear ell added, incorporating an arched gateway to the park.

While a small building or addition at the bottom end of the College Park site would be a fine idea, a double-East Wheelock Cluster simply is not appropriate here. One would love to see the campus-wide master planning4 Recently, Beyer Blinder Belle completed a master plan for the campus and were brought back to create a framework plan for the west end of Tuck Mall. Sasaki Associates were hired to plan out the House Communities system and were brought back to design two temporary social buildings as part of that system. Some unreleased plan presumably shows College Park as the last big unused site on campus. Could it be that the planners are now rejecting the Mass Row and Davis Varsity sites because those sites are already reserved for the various permanent, on-campus professors’ dwellings and social halls that the House Communities will need to be fully realized? That plan would be an interesting one to see. that led to the conclusion that a great wall of buildings on a cramped site of such sensitivity and meaning was the best move to make.

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Notes   [ + ]

1. If this complex is built, the college should get another firm to handle the design. Sasaki’s Modernist college residential buildings look nice enough (see Regis College and the N.C. State project page and aerial) but they do not belong on this site.
2. East Wheelock House site.
3. As strange as a dormitory tower sounds in small-town New England, it was not too much for Bowdoin College (Google Street View).
4. Recently, Beyer Blinder Belle completed a master plan for the campus and were brought back to create a framework plan for the west end of Tuck Mall. Sasaki Associates were hired to plan out the House Communities system and were brought back to design two temporary social buildings as part of that system. Some unreleased plan presumably shows College Park as the last big unused site on campus. Could it be that the planners are now rejecting the Mass Row and Davis Varsity sites because those sites are already reserved for the various permanent, on-campus professors’ dwellings and social halls that the House Communities will need to be fully realized? That plan would be an interesting one to see.

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A new direction for the old Heating Plant

Introduction
The college announced recently that it won’t upgrade its Heating Plant from No. 6 fuel oil to natural gas but will instead skip directly to a more sustainable source of energy.1Charlotte Albright, “President Hanlon: Big Green Will Go (More) Green,” Dartmouth News (22 April 2017); Aimee Caruso, “Dartmouth Plans to Cut Oil Reliance,” Valley News (23 April 2017). That energy source is likely to be biomass.3Rob Wolfe, “New Dartmouth Task Force Will Help School Go Green,” Valley News (31 August 2016); Peter Charalambous, “College to finalize heating and energy proposals,” The Dartmouth (3 February 2017); Wolfe, “Fueling a College’s Future,” Valley News (27 April 2017). Because a biomass plant will require a lot of land on which to store piles of wood chips for combustion, the site of the current Heating Plant south of Wheelock Street will not do.2Wolfe, “Fueling a College’s Future.”

The new plant

The college is mum on where the new heating plant will be built, but Dewey Field must be at the top of the list of possibilities. Dewey Field is a large, open site on Route 10 (Lyme Road) that is currently used as a parking lot. Most of the field is located outside the 10-minute walking radius that is supposed to define the limits of the campus proper. The field also is close to the northern end of the tunnel network that currently carries steam lines to the various buildings. Some posts on this site have speculated about the idea of putting a new heating plant in Dewey Field: here, here, and especially here.

Dewey Field aerial at Google Maps.

(Unfortunately for the college, Dewey Field is also close to the mansions of Rope Ferry Road. Would it be possible to locate a biomass plant on the other side of Lyme Road, up by the Corey Ford Rugby Clubhouse? Or would the inefficiency created by the long distance be too great?)

Wherever the school sites the new plant, it should be encouraged to hire an outside architect with vision. The northern gateway to Hanover is not the place for a brown, metal-sided box. While the plant at Hotchkiss might not be right for Hanover, it stands next to a golf course. It was designed by Centerbrook with civil engineering by Milone & MacBroom, both firms that have worked at Dartmouth.

Since a heating plant is a simple industrial building, it can be covered in anything. Here is an amazing plant in the Netherlands that is clad in Delft tiles.

The old plant

Heating Plant, Meacham photo

The Heating Plant.

The old Heating Plant is one of the better examples of historic preservation at the college.

The ground level of the plant was built as a one-story Romanesque building in 1898 (Lamb & Rich, Architects). The second level was added by the college’s other important architectural firm, Larson & Wells, in 1923. In more recent history, each time the college has placed a new boiler in the building, it has dismantled a front facade bay and then built it back again — three times, in three different bays.

This website cannot stop talking about the importance of preserving the old exhaust stack, a fundamental Hanover landmark — it is an axial terminus for Lebanon Street — and an historic symbol of the traditional function of this neighborhood as Hanover’s energy district. Yale’s master plan devotes one map to showing “major vertical objects,”4Yale Master Plan pdf, 94. and this stack is one of the three most important vertical objects in Hanover. It makes no difference that the stack, built in 1958, is not “original” to the building, whatever that means for this evolving industrial structure. The stack is simply too important. It satisfies the 50-year threshold to be considered “historic” under the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards anyway. (And it goes without saying that Harry A. Wells’s wonderfully adaptable 1916 Store House on Crosby Street, seen in Google Street View, also must be retained.)

The stack as seen from Lebanon Street.

The old plant in the future

Old power plants are reused all the time: see “Adaptive Reuse for Power Plants by Studio Gang and Adjaye Associates5Aaron Wiener, “Adaptive Reuse for Power Plants by Studio Gang and Adjaye Associates,” Architect Magazine (1 December 2013). and the Bruner/Cott renovation of Amherst’s 1925 power house. The only natural move would be for the college to expand the Hood Museum into the empty plant building.

The old stack should become a victory column. Or the school could install a staircase and top the column with a Classical decorative element, such as the golden flaming urn of Wren’s 1677 Monument to the Great Fire of London (Wikipedia) or William Whitfield’s 2003 Paternoster Square column, seen in Google Street View (that one was built as a ventilation shaft, Wikipedia notes). Or imagine commissioning a statue or an abstract sculpture as a new signpost for the arts at Dartmouth — and for the college as a whole.

Notes   [ + ]

1. Charlotte Albright, “President Hanlon: Big Green Will Go (More) Green,” Dartmouth News (22 April 2017); Aimee Caruso, “Dartmouth Plans to Cut Oil Reliance,” Valley News (23 April 2017).
2. Wolfe, “Fueling a College’s Future.”
3. Rob Wolfe, “New Dartmouth Task Force Will Help School Go Green,” Valley News (31 August 2016); Peter Charalambous, “College to finalize heating and energy proposals,” The Dartmouth (3 February 2017); Wolfe, “Fueling a College’s Future,” Valley News (27 April 2017).
4. Yale Master Plan pdf, 94.
5. Aaron Wiener, “Adaptive Reuse for Power Plants by Studio Gang and Adjaye Associates,” Architect Magazine (1 December 2013).

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South Block project

The South Block redevelopment project is accellerating; the school’s Real Estate site plans more information.

Plenty of projects are in the works, all summarized in the most recent master plan (June 2002): highlights include the design work pending for a modular addition to Sudikoff and the evaluation of sites behind Fayerweather Row for a Commons House.

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Facilities plan released

The facilities plan, “Dartmouth and the Upper Valley:A Special College and a Special Place” is on line and describes several interesting projects apparently not yet settled on, most notably a A “Commons House” behind Dartmouth Row that will provide social spaces.   Others include the renovation of Thayer Dining Hall for social and performance spaces; a Tuck residence hall adjacent Whittemore; 145 residential units in Grasse Road faculty/staff housing; 200 apartment units in Rivercrest, north of campus; and a parking garage south of Cummings for 750+ cars.

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