The Black VAC

VAC sidewalk, Meacham photo

Love the broad sidewalk on the Lebanon Street side. It would be even better with some ground-level shops, but this is a good start.

VAC rust, Meacham photo

This is the largest of the famous rust stains, and the only one that really detracted from the building’s appearance last summer. The concrete wall obviously shouldn’t have been pulled out far enough to catch the runoff from the Norwegian slate, that’s all. There is no point in trying to keep up with cleaning it as long as the stone still contains iron oxide. Instead the school should (1) install a drip rail to channel the runoff, (2) cast a little Modernist concrete gargoyle for this spot, or (3) embrace the stain and commission an artist to incorporate it into an evolving work of art, perhaps by using stains in other colors.

VAC interior, Meacham photo

That exterior board-formed concrete wall continues inside the building.

A detailed article from structural engineering firm Lemessurier (pdf) on the construction of the VAC contains these interesting tidbits:

Machado and Silvetti Associates designed a basement in the building that was conveniently situated directly atop the highest ridge of the bedrock spine. Although the basement required leveling of appreciable regions of bedrock, this geometry of the building allowed for a stable, flat bearing surface in the central portion of the structure.

To increase the overall efficiency of the foundation placement, the contractor suggested that larger pits be dug by hand while some shafts continued to be slowly drilled elsewhere on-site. The proposed hand digging involved timber lagging to support the excavation. A single worker shoveled soil into a bucket by hand, and the bucket was then lifted from the pit base to the surface. Ironically, a simple technique used to excavate mine shafts in Thoreau’s era would become critical to the success of a state-ofthe-art 21st-century construction project. So atypical was this type of construction that the workers and engineers present at the site came to refer to the work as 1850s foundations.

The curved wood panel ceiling is the only surface in the building not rectilinear in its expression. The art forum is otherwise bound by straight lines that are vertical, horizontal, and even diagonal as the grand staircase descends from the upper levels. The columns, however, are set away from the main forum to allow an unimpeded view of the central space as the visitor walks the hallways between offices and studios. The absence of columns in the immediate vicinity necessitates serially cantilevering floor framing—in other words, cantilevers off cantilevers off cantilevers—extending into the forum space and supporting loads by means other than direct column support.

VAC window onto Hop, Meacham photo

Some campus-related links

  • The new mobile-centric campus map is available as a pdf document. It shows fine details like the trails in the College Park and the lanes on the running track.
  • That nice brick house on Lebanon Street in the Sargent Block was built ca. 1840 by John Williams (Frank J. Barrett, Early Dartmouth College and Downtown Hanover (2008), in Google Books).
  • The folks over at Hillflint, big fans of Take Ivy (NYT, Wikipedia), are using a line drawing of Dartmouth Hall in their logo.
  • College master planners Beyer Blinder Belle have contracted with BFJ Planning to come up with a transportation plan (pdf).
  • Hokie Stone, the locally-quarried building stone of the Virginia Tech campus, has been mentioned here before. Now the football team is wearing helmets that are completely covered by a graphic depicting a wall made of Hokie Stone (Richmond Times Dispatch).
  • With the Digital Production Unit added to Preservation Services (Rauner Blog), the library has been scanning old photos and putting them on line. The amazing collection is searchable and will provide the subjects for many posts here in the future.
  • American Architects has an email interview with Machado and Silvetti regarding the Black VAC. The photos, by Esto, are also available on their own.
  • The Times had an interesting article on the Caracas practice of naming intersections rather than streets.
  • Professor Jeff Sharlet and his students are producing an online journal called 40 Towns (Corin Hirsch, “Dartmouth Literary Journal 40 Towns Documents Upper Valley,” Seven Days (4 September 2013)). Lindsay Ellis’s story “Kings of the Counter” is about people at the Fort (a.k.a. Fort Harry’s, etc.).
  • DSpace@MIT, an online collection of MIT research papers, has the late Frederick Stahl’s 1955 MIT architecture thesis, an interesting proposal for the Hopkins Center (pdf). Stahl graduated from Dartmouth in 1952 and died on July 26 (Globe obituary, Boston Architectural College obituary).
  • Princeton has moved the Dinky Station again, reports the Buildings & Grounds Blog of the Chronicle. The Dinky Line is a short railroad branch that connects the campus in Princeton to the town of Princeton Junction.
  • This railroad news is unrelated to the campus but stirs the heart: The Union Pacific is going to restore a Big Boy, Engine 4114, to running condition. Who thought one of these creatures would ever come back to life? Unbelievable.

[Update 05.03.2014: Broken link to Hillflint item replaced.]

Campus construction and other topics

  • The Dartmouth has an article on campus construction projects.
  • Nice photos of the Visual Arts Center are to be found in ArchDaily (via Dartmouth College Planning).
  • The Grad Studies Office is moving from Wentworth to a renovated space at 37 Dewey Field Road (Home 37).
  • Bruce Wood at the Big Green Alert Blog has this tidbit regarding Memorial Field: “Keep your eyes peeled for a significant improvement to the facility at some point this fall.”
  • Architect Michael McKee was a principal with Moshe Safdie and Associates when he served as a “Special Consultant” with KSWA to handle the design development for the North Campus Academic Center (Somerville, Ma. PowderHouse Arts Center submittal pdf).
  • The school has obtained permission from the state to extend the existing floating wharf at the boathouse from 170 ft. to 218 ft. The project will involve dredging (download state letter, wetlands permit, etc.).
  • Did you know that there’s a short line called the Claremont Concord Railroad with a transfer facility in West Lebanon near the dilapidated old B&M roundhouse? In this aerial, the red Four Aces Diner is visible in its new location and the Railroad’s classic early-1950s Alco (?) is the yellow engine on the left.
  • has announced that NeuLion will stream home games in several sports (via the Big Green Alert Blog). NeuLion is the leader in the field, and it seems to be moving away from a dependence on Flash. (Flash has a bad reputation on the desktop, see Steve Jobs’s letter of April 2010, and does not work on many mobile devices: Adobe announced in November 2011 that it had halted the development of Flash for mobile browsers according to Wikipedia.)

DADA exhibit, other news

  • DADA (Dartmouth Alumni in Design and Architecture) is having its third alumni architecture exhibit June 6 through 16 in the Nearburg Arts Forum in the Black Family Visual Arts Center (via Sue).
  • The Big Green Alert Blog reports that the Town has approved the zoning amendments that will allow a new video scoreboard at Memorial Field (a topic about which alumni are fairly passionate, judging from the comments on a post at this blog). The Zoning Board was to have considered a request for a Special Exception to replace the existing scoreboard at Scully-Fahey Field in its hearing on May 30 (ZBA Agenda).
  • The Rauner Library Blog has a post about old postcards depicting the campus.
  • The Dartmouth published a series of three articles on architecture last month. First, “Despite lack of major, architecture offerings abound” suggests again how interesting a history of the somewhat hidden world of design education at Dartmouth would be; second, “Recent campus buildings depart from New England tradition” focuses on post-1984 work; and third, “College’s early buildings share traditional aesthetic” covers prewar buildings (thanks to Amanda for the quotes).
  • Dartmouth Now article (and Flickr set) on the Life Sciences Greenhouse atop the Life Sciences Center.
  • The Planner has photos of the new offices of Dartmouth Computing in Baker, the new deans’ offices (Student Academic Support Services) in Carson, in a space formerly occupied by the Computer Store (Planner’s Blog post), and the new location of the Computer Store in McNutt. This confusing shuffle was mentioned on this blog during April. Any word on the fate of the old Kiewit space outside the Tower Room?
  • The Planner also has photos of 113 Wilder, the Physics Department’s office and lounge suite.

The Black VAC film

In the school’s official video, the shots of the Visual Arts Center start at 3:19. Several of the shots of the rooftops of the Hop appear to have been made with a radio-controlled helicopter: a private drone surveils Hanover.

In the section of the film called The Builders [8:04], the emphasis is on cross-disciplinary work. That was one of the original goals of the Hopkins Center as well, but now that the visual arts have moved to their own building, the Hop seems to be left with just the performing arts for cross-pollination.

Ken Burns has a nice quotation: Art “turns out to be the bright burning sun of this particular solar system called Dartmouth.”

Alex Hanson’s thorough article in the Valley News adds yet another possible name to the hat: The Black VAC.

Dartmouth has an announcement of the installation and one-year loan of Crouching Spider.

The Visual Arts Center and the Maffei Arts Plaza

The Board has opened a new front in the struggle to give the Black Family Visual Arts Center an informal name:

Two weekends ago, we celebrated the opening of the Black Family Visual Arts Center (BVAC). Not only is it a spectacular building, but its presence has also transformed the plaza between the BVAC and the Hop into one of the most beautiful and inviting spots on campus, enhanced by Ellsworth Kelly’s “Dartmouth Panels” on the brick façade of the Hop. The arts district formed by the Hop, the Hood and the BVAC creates a distinctive magnet for our campus and provides a splendid backdrop for the Year of the Arts at Dartmouth.1Board Chairman Stephen F. Mandel, letter to alumni (26 September 2012).

Whether called the Black Arts Center or the BVAC, the building is remarkable. The dedication was noted in the Buildings & Grounds blog of the Chronicle, and the first review of the building has appeared, in Hyperallergic. Unique photos of architectural models for the building are posted at Dartbeat. Donald Kreis has a perceptive review on Vermont Public Radio.

The accompanying plaza, built by specialized contractor Landshapes, is visible in a number of photos from the school’s Flickr photostream. There are also photos of the installation of Louise Joséphine Bourgeois’ giant metal spider sculpture in the plaza.

It is difficult to believe that Dartmouth was content to maintain a parking lot on this site for the last several decades:

Brewster Hall and parking lot, site of Maffei Arts Plaza

The new arts plaza is one of those places that changes its site radically and yet seems inevitable.

[Update 11.04.2012: Kreis review link added.]

Notes   [ + ]

1. Board Chairman Stephen F. Mandel, letter to alumni (26 September 2012).

The graphical Green; arts events

As seen at Dartmouth Now, the Year of the Arts logo initially reads as a cluster of cinema searchlight beams:

But of course it is a map of the paths on the Green, with north to the left. A larger version of the logo at the festival’s website takes on the appearance of a print, or perhaps a painting.

Coverage of the opening of the Visual Arts Center may be found in The Dartmouth and Dartmouth Now. Hood Director Taylor speaks about the Kelly sculpture and its aircraft-grade aluminum in video. The Valley News has a story on the Hop at 50, and the Year of the Arts site has a timeline of the arts on campus beginning with 1962.

Kelly sculpture going up today

Dartmouth Now has an article on the installation of Ellsworth Kelly’s sculpture on the east exterior wall of Spaulding Auditorium (thanks Matt).

The Dartmouth work is composed of five monochromatic aluminum panels, each painted a single block of color — yellow, green, blue, red, and orange. The hard-edged shapes of Dartmouth Panels play off the rounded roofline of the Hopkins Center’s Spaulding Auditorium and echo the color spectrum and basic building blocks of visual experience.

The installation of Dartmouth Panels begins today.


[Update 07.14.2012: has an in-progress photo with the complete set of five panels. They do indeed match the pattern of the 2011 lithograph. The Hood has the press release (pdf). Dartmouth’s Flickr photostream has some excellent photos of the unloading and installation.]

[Update 07.13.2012: The Dartmouth Now photo shows the work with three of the five panels up.]

[Update 07.11.2012: The Valley News has a small photo of the installation. Interesting that this 14 x 28.5 inch lithograph by Kelly titled Dartmouth (2011) features five tall rectangles.]

A renovation of Collis

Oudens Ello Architecture of Boston has created a nice computer model of the Collis Center as part of its $5m renovation of the building.

Prior to founding their practice in 2007, Mr. Oudens and Mr. Ello held senior leadership positions at Machado and Silvetti Associates[.]

The work will improve the air conditioning and expand the food-service area eastward to the front wall of the building, taking over the narrow eating area and corridor that occupied that space (The Dartmouth).

Aerial view of Collis (Bing).


[Update 07.07.2012: Details on reconfiguration of spaces and link to The Dartmouth added.]

Inn updates, the story of Bean’s Art Store, and other notes

  • The Dartmouth has a story on Bean’s Art Store, the little shop near the Hop (behind Ledyard National Bank) that has been furnishing Studio Art students with their squishy erasers and tubes of paint for decades.
  • Dartbeat has a post with photos on the progress at the Visual Arts Center. Big Green Alert Blog notes that the power lines along Lebanon Street are going under ground.
  • The Boston Globe links to a Valley News story on the completion of a large part of the Inn renovations (see also Dartmouth Now. The Rauner Library Blog has a post on the Inn’s predecessors on the site.
  • The Christian Science Monitor reports that the Interior Department has designated the Connecticut River and its watershed the first National Blueway in the country. The Valley News reports on the septennial perambulation of the riverine New Hampshire-Vermont border by the two states’ attorneys general.
  • The Valley News reports (again) that the Friends of Hanover Crew now have permission to build a rowing dock at Wilson’s Landing, a part of Fullington Farm. Hanover’s crews plan to move their boats out of Dartmouth’s boathouse and into a new boathouse to be built at the farm. An interesting report (pdf) from Engineering Ventures mentions that when the Friends of Hanover Crew bought their 2.4-acre portion of the farm from Dartmouth in 2008, they promised to allow Ledyard Canoe Club members to store 20 canoes and kayaks on the site, probably in the basement of the existing barn.

  • Dartmouth Sports announced some time ago that the new basketball office suite was completed in the old Kresge gym space in Berry Sports Center (via Dartmouth Now).
  • Thanks to Bruce for his proposal that as part of a Piazza Nervi project, the entrance to Thompson Arena should be redone (Big Green Alert Blog). This is a good idea, since Thompson’s entrance definitely needs replacing. But while one does notice that Thompson’s front facade is not parallel to Leverone’s, the lack of alignment is not necessarily a problem: plenty of urban spaces, especially in Italy, lack any right angles at all. And if the facades were made parallel, the difference in heights might become more noticeable. Who knows… The 2000 student life master plan (pdf) notes that the entry into Thompson Arena is obscured by existing houses along Park Street:

    There are, however, opportunities to reinforce the entry to Thompson Arena by moving or demolishing the College-owned houses on Park Street in front of the current entry. Doing so would relate the Arena to its cousin, Leverone Field House, both designed by Pier Luigi Nervi, and complete an intention planned but never realized.

  • The school’s Flickr page has a photo set showing the new ’53 Commons renovation of Thayer Dining Hall. The photos, along with plans, show that the red awnings in the main dining room have been removed and the bays opened up to allow free passage from north to south. Upstairs is where the real changes have taken place: there are lots of dining rooms up there now. The long, narrow Topside space is a dining room; the space above the leather-paneled Tindle Lounge/Paganucci Room is a private dining room; the spaces above the lobby (formerly offices?) look to be dining or meeting rooms. It is not clear where they put all the DDS offices that used to occupy the second level. At least some of the quadripylons out front were removed for the project (Street View): will they be replaced? Some kind of bollard seems necessary there, but the area might be more interesting with a different solution.
  • The 1994-era Lone Pine Tavern in the basement of Collis has been replaced by something called One Wheelock. It seems that a change in focus was needed, but did the room really have to be stripped bare? Perhaps people were stealing the memorabilia.
  • The Rauner Library blog has had too many interesting posts to count. See posts on the mathematics funerals and duckboards on the Green.
  • Dartmouth Health Connect opened a while back (The Dartmouth). It occupies the former Omer & Bob’s location following a renovation by Haynes & Garthwaite. It turns out that H&G designed Omer & Bob’s new location in Lebanon.
  • Lebanon is selling its Junior High School building, designed by Jens Larson (Valley News, Valley News). Note the similarities to Baker Library:

  • Some interesting things going on at other colleges: Yale is building a freestanding college in Singapore, designed by KieranTimberlake (Times article on the controversy). The University of Virginia is building a facility for its squash team at the Boar’s Head Sports Club, part of a fancy private resort (UVaToday). The Boar’s Head Inn is owned by the U.Va. Real Estate Foundation.
  • That Hanover war memorial that stands in front of the Town Building on Main Street? (Street View.) It was previously associated with the Green, where one would expect a war memorial, and shows up in front of the Inn in an old photo that was published in a recent story in the Mirror. It is interesting to note that a nearby space, just to the east of the Inn, later became a war memorial garden for the college.
  • “Chaste” might not be the right word, but “tasteful” is close: TruexCullins’ Buchanan Hall addition is very nice (Street View, school project page).
  • The Rauner Blog’s post on the Ski Jump features this photo of the jump’s outrun. The jump is gone now, but the Golf Course remains. Does that view show the same site as this one, from the Hanover Country Club’s map of the various holes? More historic images of the jump at (via Big Green Alert Blog).
  • More information on the bypass mentioned here earlier, from page 14 of the 2002 Campus Master Plan (pdf):

    To reduce congestion, Hanover has explored alternatives to bypass the Inn corner. A Connector Highway linking Route 120, Route 10 and I-91 would be very desirable for both Hanover and the Medical Center, but Lebanon has not supported this proposal. The College should continue to study this and other by-pass proposals, making College properties available if necessary.

The next Visual Arts Center

I. Introduction

The nearing completion of the Visual Arts Center points up the current underuse of the site next door at the corner of Crosby and Lebanon Streets.

Crosby and Lebanon Streets, existing

Existing conditions. All maps based on official campus map (pdf).

This is a large and important site. Whatever building goes here — let’s assume it is an arts-related building — will be visible to visitors arriving on Lebanon Street. It will need to be a gateway building, as the 2000 downtown Hanover plan illustrates so thoroughly. The Rogers Marvel 2002 Arts Center Analysis (pdf) also emphasizes the potential of this site on page 38.

author photo of Crosby and Lebanon Streets, 2006

View to the northwest showing the corner, 2006.

The first impulse is to follow the footprint of the existing low-scale facilities building. But this site is not only large, it is also unusually malleable. The college and town might be able to relocate Crosby Street in radical ways to completely reshape the ground available for the gateway building.

Why might Crosby be changeable? Because it has been changed in the past. Crosby Street was first laid out in 1872, to separate the state farm on the east from the state college dormitory site and other buildings on the west.

Crosby Street originally ran straight through to Lebanon Street. It was not until the early 1960s that Crosby’s southern delta was given its current incongruously suburban form. When Dartmouth sought permission to close down South College Street for the Hopkins Center, the Town asked Dartmouth to rework Crosby Street in return, aligning the street with Sanborn Road to form an ex post facto four-way intersection.

author photo of Memorial Field, 2006

View to the north showing the front (west) facade of Memorial Field, 2006. The sidewalk preserves Crosby’s original alignment.

Should we worry about Sanborn Road if Crosby is realigned? No. In fact, the downtown Hanover plan proposes in text and an illustration that Sanborn Road be blocked off. Instead, Hovey Lane will give access to this neighborhood through a short outlet punched through to South Street (see map below).

Would the abandonment of Crosby Street’s current alignment open up any possibilities for a college building on the corner? Each of the following proposals assumes that McKenzie Hall/Shops on Crosby is preserved; Sanborn Road is rerouted; and commercial buildings are built on the college land along the south side of Lebanon Street.

II. The Maximum Arts

The gateway building could expand to fill all of the empty land added to the corner:

maximum arts proposal

The maximum arts proposal.

This plan would block an important view of Memorial Field and make Crosby Street into a narrow tunnel. A good use of space, but not good preservation or townscape.

Some variation on this plan, however, might be a good one:

variation on maximum arts proposal

Variation on the maximum arts proposal.

III. The Minimum Arts

Crosby could be pulled to the west, adding a big empty lawn in front of Memorial Field:

minimum arts proposal

The minimum arts proposal.

This plan would not make efficient use of space, and its creation of new lawns would not actually improve the view of Memorial Field.

IV. The Square and Temple

A big public square could be carved out of the surrounding buildings:

square and temple proposal

The square and temple proposal.

If the big square feels barren, a little temple that shares an alignment with nothing else could be dropped down in front of Memorial Field.

This plan would take advantage of the interesting fact that both Memorial Field and St. Denis Roman Catholic Church were designed in the early 1920s by Jens F. Larson. The two buildings appear to be perpendicular to each other, both aligned with Crosby Street.

author photo of St. Denis, 2006

View to the southeast showing north (front) and west facades of St. Denis, 2006.

[Update 11.17.2012: Broken link to Memorial Field image fixed.]

Future excitement: the expansion of the Hop

Dartmouth recently announced that it has “initiated a renovation and expansion project for the Hopkins Center and will be selecting an architect in the coming year.” Because the Hop is so large, loved, and important, this is sure to be an interesting project.

On the occasion of the Hopkins Center’s 50th anniversary, the alumni magazine has published a photo essay on the Hop of today and collected reminiscences.

Reading Jonah Lehrer’s New Yorker article mentioning the Pixar building and how Steve Jobs concentrated the restrooms in one place as a way of forcing interaction among employees reminds one of the Hinman Boxes and their placement in the Hopkins Center with the specific intention of exposing students to the arts.1Bohlin Cywinski Jackson designed the 2002 Pixar headquarters, the most important Apple Stores over the years, and Dartmouth’s Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center.

The Black family’s gift for the Visual Arts Center includes the funding of an artwork by Ellsworth Kelly that will be attached to the east facade of Spaulding Auditorium this year (The Dartmouth). See this Street View for the likely site.

The publicity around the Hood expansion and the arts center refers to “Dartmouth’s new Arts District.” It seems that neither “Hopland” nor “SoWhee” has taken hold.

There is the challenge of adding to a notable building by a big-name architect, Wallace Harrison. The various firms doing careful insertions in and around the Harrison-planned Lincoln Center, including Tod Williams Billie Tsien, would be worth considering (Lincoln Center page, Times Topics).

Two recent master plans have proposed that the college graft a variety of additions onto the sides of the Hop:

It will be interesting to see where the new additions will go and how they will look. Will the Hop’s studio range really be demolished and replaced, as the Rogers Marvel plan proposes? Will the blank wall on Lebanon Street really get a row of shops, as the Brook McIlroy plan proposes? Will a northern addition expand the Hop proper toward the Green, alongside the original and iconic Moore Theatre? Stay tuned.


[Update 07.07.2012: Link to DAM article added.]


Notes   [ + ]

1. Bohlin Cywinski Jackson designed the 2002 Pixar headquarters, the most important Apple Stores over the years, and Dartmouth’s Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center.

The Black Arts Center will open in September

At the end of last month Dartmouth has named its new visual arts building The Black Family Visual Arts Center (Dartmouth Now, The Dartmouth). The name honors Leon ’73 and Debra Black, who donated $48 million to the project.

The photo accompanying the article in The Dartmouth shows the building before its Norwegian slate exterior was attached. The Planner’s blog had a post in January about the slate going up. See also before and after Street Views of Brewster and Clement halls, the buildings that were demolished to make room for the arts center.

Moving sculptures

Mark di Suvero’s X-Delta has moved again, this time to a site in front of Berry Library. It will move back to its permanent site below the Hood after the Visual Arts Center is finished.

And Richard Nonas’s 1976 sculpture Telemark Shortline is back:

photo by Meacham of Telemark Shortline sculpture

View of Telemark Shortline in front of Richardson Hall, June 2011.

photo by Meacham of Telemark Shortline sculpture

View of Wheeler Hall, June 2011.

See also Google Street View.

Framing the Visual Arts Center

Steelworkers topped off the frame for the Visual Arts Center on June 22 (Boston/SF News). (Still no updates on the Machado & Silvetti site.)

Visual Arts Center

VAC southwest corner (photos taken 06.21.2011)

The whole thing is shaping up just as Jeff Stikeman‘s renderings predicted.

Visual Arts Center

What does not come across in the close-up rendering of the Hood vista is just how important that newly-exposed view is to Currier Street (formerly South College Street):

View of Hood from Currier Street