The Beyer Blinder Belle master plan is so far only publicly available in the form of this attractive image from the firm’s website. Since the firm put up the image, there has been no detailed discussion of what it means.
Dartmouth, largely by happenstance, has ended up with a campus that is centered on a tower that marks the main entrance to the library. Three armatures radiate from the library. Although not exactly axes with termini, they are spines along which development is organized: the Green, Tuck Mall, and Berry Row. These three armatures are reinforced by the BBB master plan.
In addition, the plan (a) adds one small new armature; (b) extends existing armatures with new fingers in three places; and, where existing development prevents the laying out of a new armature, (c) creates a unified, singular walking route to tie together everything along the way.
The New Armature
The combination of construction on North Main and the replacement of the Choates creates an armature extending all the way from Berry Row to the Roth Center on Occom Ridge.
One appreciates the designers’ resistance to the impulse to demolish Cutter/Shabazz, but it looks as if the axis of this development could be brought into Berry Row a bit better. This is a sort of Baker Library situation, with the axes of Tuck Mall and the Green intersecting, and it might call for a tower or a gateway. One imagines a way to walk through the west wall of Berry Row, as Rocky gives access to Webster Avenue. It would be interesting to see a gateway knocked through the center of Cutter/Shabazz as well. There is a lot of potential here. (Cheering many hearts, the Choates are proposed for replacement in this plan; it is not clear that Choate House and North Hall have to go as well, though.)
1. One finger extends Tuck Mall along the Fahey-McLane (Tuck Drive) axis, tying in the President’s House and new construction on Webster Avenue. This is an axis established nearly a century ago but not pushed until recently. As noted earlier, the closing of Tuck Drive is aggressive but probably inevitable. It is not clear whether the President’s House would keep its current function, but building here, especially along Webster Avenue’s vacant lots, is a wise use of space.
2. One finger bends to extend Tuck Mall beyond Murdough down through Whittemore Circle. This is not particularly original either, and while it is good that the plan shows development here, it could certainly be less suburban and might benefit from organization around an axial pedestrian path rather than a curving automobile driveway.
3. One finger extends Berry Row beyond McLaughlin up to the LSC. This is the most original of the three. It confronts the problematic fact that the Med School axis is separate from and parallel to that of Berry Row. Rather than provide an emphatic terminus for Berry Row, the plan shows a curving amble around to the medical axis.
The Navigation Route
A green band runs from Wilson (at the southeast corner of the Green) all the way to Burnham Field and presumably the softball field or even the Appalachian Trail. It shows up on the plan neatly as the shortest path between the two points, wending its way past the Heating Plant, Memorial Field, Rolfe Field and Leverone Field House, and Thompson Arena.
A person could walk this way today, but the route leads through several parking lots and is not entirely pleasant, let alone marked or coherent. Creating the route as shown on the plan will require pedestrianizing the parking lots at the Heating Plant, the area behind the Gym (that one has always seemed impromptu and inappropriate), and at Thompson Arena.