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Dartmouth's New North Campus Master Plan (2001)

The firm of Moore Ruble Yudell of Los Angeles, in association with Bruner/Cott of Cambridge, won a competition for the chance to design two blocks of Hanover as part of Dartmouth's campus.

Both blocks already contained buildings, including some owned by the college: the southern block was re-planned by Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates during the late 1980s, and the northern one was the site of a hospital demolished during the mid-1990s.   The firms currently are designing a mathematics department/academic centers building, a group of dormitories, and related buildings.

  MRY, the firm headed until 1985 by Charles Moore, the late and renowned designer of the Hood Museum, has designed numerous campus plans and buildings, including those of the Haas School at Berkeley; one of the most interesting campuses in the country, the sloping post-industrial site of the University of Washington at Tacoma; and a vast master plan for Dong-Hwa National University in Taiwan.   The firm has collected many of their designs in a book, Campus and Community (1997). The firm also has won the competition to design the U.S. Embassy in Berlin.

  Bruner/Cott is known for designing MASSMoca , working with VSBA on the renovation of Memorial Hall at Harvard, and for designing other academic buildings.


Updates :

  02.03.2005   MRY are also designing the Kemeny building at the south end of this project, with renderings available.   Richard Burck Associates of Somerville Mass. are handling the landscapes surrounding both McLaughlin and Kemeny.

  01.29.2005   The Facilities Planning Office has posted renderings of the first two dormitories, viewed from the south and north.   Using brick as a nod to Dartmouth, the buildings appear very much in the style of MRY: the hugging shed-roofed colonnade, the ostensibly wood-framed protrusion from a masonry building, the close-cropped roof, and the squat, muscular chimneys that nevertheless contain glass in their ends.   The result should be friendlier and less theoretical than Berry library while less substantial or traditional than the Gold Coast.   Note the existing MHMH pavilion at the left side of the view from the south.

  09.24.2004   The Trustees have named the near-future dormitories north of Maynard the David T. McLaughlin Cluster for the late President McLaughlin, who died August 25, according to a news release.

  04.12.2004   Zoning negotiations continue.

  03.17.2004   Dartmouth has released a drawing of the south facade of Kemeny Hall and the adjoining Academic Centers building.

  01.22.2004   The school's Master Plan Map (September, 2003) indicates the sites of the first two dormitories of the North Campus Master Plan.   They form a gateway, though not particularly a response to anything across the street: the main gateway will come later, to the west.

The footprints of the original plan (left) have been refined in the new version (right) and made more conventional and less picturesque; more like Dartmouth and less like the Haas School.   (The buildings that might have occupied the earlier footprints are visible at the right side of a rendering on Bruner/Cott's page.)

A video about the school's overall master plan includes shots of the architects discussing the North Campus Master Plan.

  09.24.2003   The school plans to break ground for the dining hall and two of the dormitories during the summer or fall of 2004, according to President Wright.   Designers apparently have updated plans for the buildings that they completed earlier.   South of Maynard Street, the school plans to break ground soon for the Kemeny Center, which will house both Mathematics and the Academic Centers.

  12.16.2002   This site on line.

  09.30.2002   Provost Barry Scherr released a "Provost's Update on Facilities" scaling back construction goals in light of the economic downturn.   Kemeny/Academic Centers is going ahead; the dormitories and dining hall are pushed back.

  08.14.2002   New information about the budget retains ongoing construction projects

  08.2002   The school's strategic plan, "Dartmouth College: Forever New" [or 47kb PDF] includes an Academic Facilities imperative.

  11.10.2001   Press Release:   Dartmouth Trustees Approve Building Plans [...]"

  09.2001   The Dartmouth printed a short interview with Buzz Yudell.

  07.27.2001   Press Release:   "California Architectural Firm Moore Ruble Yudell Proposes Transformative Design for New Dartmouth Buildings"

  01.2000   Earlier outlines of the project are available in an article on the school's overall master plan, updated by its original designer, Lo-Yi Chan.   More information is available in a Dartmouth press release and an article in The Dartmouth.

  11.21.2000   Press Release: "Facilities in Planning to Address Student Life and Academic Needs"

Site history

What is now the northern part of the campus of Dartmouth College, in Hanover, New Hampshire, U.S.A., was occupied by frame houses and farmland through most of the nineteenth century.   Institutional use dominated at the end of that century, as Dartmouth Trustee and Hanover resident Hiram Hitchcock established the Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital (1889-1893) on the farmland between College Street and Rope Ferry Road.   Hitchcock connected the two streets with a new east-west thoroughfare, Maynard Street, that now bisects the site selected for the master plan.   North of Maynard stood the hospital and its associated institutions (the MHMH School of Nursing, the Hitchcock Clinic, the College Infirmary).   South of Maynard Street, no single owner held sway, and piecemeal development of private houses, businesses, student societies, College classroom buildings, and hospital-related buildings took place through the 1980s.

  MHMH postcard
Three sketch plans (author)
Aerial   Front (south) facade of Faulkner House, MHMH, Spring 1994 (author)
  MHMH footprint in relation to MRY plan

During the late 1980s, after the hospital found expansion difficult and located a new site southeast of Hanover, Dartmouth College purchased the hospital's Hanover property.   The land is located immediately adjacent to College property not far from the center of campus, and the College hired the Philadelphia firm of Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates to design a master plan that focused on the block south of Maynard Street.   The transition to school uses over the whole site was not smooth, as individual property owners held out and students and alumni expressed fears that the school would expand too quickly now that so much space was available.   The continuing presence of the Dartmouth Medical School, moving slowly to its new suburban site at the relocated hospital, also delayed reuse.   The possibility of selectively demolishing parts of the hospital to leave a reusable modernist tower also existed: it would have been the most interesting dormitory on campus, but planners decided it was not feasible.   In 1995, the school demolished most of the hospital and created a parking lot, reserving the space for future construction.

Denise Scott Brown planned a "Quadrangle" in the ravine, and the school began to fill it out.   The firm of Robert A.M. Stern, which had lost to VSBA in an informal competition to handle the master plan, designed Moore Hall as one side of a gateway at the north end of the quadrangle.   VSBA designed the Berry addition to Baker Library at the south end of the site.

The school was unsure from the beginning how much it would follow the planners' advice, however.   One alternative scheme that VSBA presented was in essence a half-done version of the quadrangle, a plan that required new buildings only on the west side of the space.   This plan found favor with the school's own architects, who saw the Quadrangle as being too crowded and the buildings too tall for the narrow space between them.   So young to be abandoned so quickly, the original VSBA quadrangle plan stopped serving as the school's development framework.   The idea shifted to one of simply creating a "Berry Row," a line of east-facing buildings along the west side of an axial lawn through the center of the block.

When the school again addressed its need for more dormitories and a new main dining hall in the late 1990s, it had to look beyond the Elm-Maynard block, which had room for perhaps two more buildings.   Dartmouth again asked planners to create an overall scheme for future development, this time encompassing all of the former hospital property north of Baker Library and focusing on the site of the hospital itself.

The competition

The competition was the largest at the school in many years.   Competitors would get to rehash the design of the busy Elm-Maynard block in light of the abandonment of the VSBA quadrangle, and they would get to expand to the open land of the block north of Maynard.   The task was to tie the two blocks together, squeezing new functions into an existing streetscape at the south while establishing new patterns on a site relatively free of constraints at the north.   As it stood before the competition, the site included several parameters: the Kiewit Computation Center had been demolished, and Bradley and Gerry, home to Mathematics and other uses, were blocking the north facade of Berry but were slated for demolition in stages, leaving Bradley for a time as an anchor for the first stage of the new Kemeny Hall.

  Link to aerial view of project area, 1992, showing

The College talked with a group of planning firms including several it had worked with previously.   From those firms' proposals, the school selected four to complete a series of designs.   These firms were:

dot   Robert A.M. Stern Architects of New York.   Stern designed Moore Hall (1998) as part of the VSBA master plan.

dot   Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Architects of Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

dot   Moore Ruble Yudell Architects of Santa Monica, Ca.

dot   Polshek Partnership of New York.

Though this expansion involves greater change than the VSBA plans for Berry Library and the Ravine, the process has been relatively uncontroversial.   More buildings flung farther, including dormitories and a non-central dining hall, would seem to have a greater effect on "the Dartmouth experience" than a new library added onto the rear of the old one.   Nevertheless, the addition to the campus will not be any larger than Tuck Mall was for the Dartmouth of the 1920s.

This locator map divides the site arbitrarily into five zones.   The map depicts the site as the designers found it; since the time of the competition, several changes have taken place.   Dartholm/Delta Gamma (east side, north of Burke) and the Kiewit Computation Center have been demolished.   The designers apparently were asked to presume the demolition of Bradley-Gerry, and it also appears in gray.

  Locator Map

The five maps following depict the variety of responses to each zone.

Designers had little choice but to fill out the west side of the ravine as the mid-1990s VSBA plan had envisioned.   The armature that Berry and Moore created between them practically dictates the locations of new buildings.   The interesting difficulty here is how to handle Kemeny Hall and the Academic Centers building attached to it, since so many demands are placed on the pair: they must face southeast as part of the row, turn a corner, face west as part of the North Main streetscape, and be built in two stages as Bradley and Gerry are demolished.   In addition, the buildings have to create some sort of space in front of Carson Hall to the south.

The solution was either to frame a narrow channel space in anticipation of the wider north-south ravine (RAMS, PP), or to carve out some sort of positive enclosure identifiable as a space in its own right (BCJ, MRY).   All but PP accepted the moving or demolition and construction of a new Phi Tau House on a new location northwest of its original site.

The east side of Elm-Maynard block, which competitors called the Ramble, features steep slopes and a variety of existing buildings.

The competitors proposed no major buildings for this portion of the site, but their entries differed widely in their response to what existed.   Two firms (BCJ, MRY) proposed a more economical preservation-minded solution, with MRY suggesting simply the removal of the postwar rear additions to the White Church.   The other firms (RAMS, PP), on the other hand, proposed to sweep out the existing jumble.   Polshek, in particular, favored a Romantic impulse for this portion of the site, preferring a hilly, wooded area nearly free of buildings.   Unconstrained by real-world space demands, Polshek even noted the possible demolition of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon House south of the church.

The limitations of the site south of the Old Hitchcock Clinic at the northeast corner of Maynard Street and Rope Ferry Road again permitted little variation in siting.   The dimensions of the space and the pattern established by the existing row of buildings informed a relatively similar series of designs among the competitors.

All competitors placed a dormitory facing Maynard Street.   The footprint of the BCJ building was perhaps most traditional at this campus, while the irregular Polshek design drew least from the place.   The buildings' facades, not shown here, spanned a similar range, with Stern's the most traditionally "Georgian."

Though it is not clear whether the competitors were directed to place the dining hall on this site at the center of the old hospital complex, all of them did.   The amount of open space, the centrality of the location, and the presence of the Berry Row axis mandated that the dining hall go here.   Each plan showed the existing Kellogg Auditorium, originally built for the Medical School, becoming a performance space attached to the other social spaces of the dining hall.

The availability of space gave the designers freedom to handle the dining hall in a variety of ways.   Stern's hall was set closest to the street (RAMS), though it still would have stood behind an imposing lawn.   The building would have created a massive anchor, picking up not only the Berry axis but a new one the firm proposed to establish to the east, where the hall would be visible from College Street between the dormitories.   The other three schemes recessed the dining hall within the block, with BCJ taking it back the farthest.   That firm's dining hall was to stand atop a large, multilevel arcaded podium that joined the building no its neighbors.   The MRY plan also tied the hall in with its flanking buildings, creating a formal colonnaded hemicycle that would be visible from Berry Library.   The Polshek design wrapped the dining hall around Kellogg, giving it a corner feature to be seen through a narrow gap between the dormitories lining Maynard Street.

None of the plans appeared to borrow heavily from the old hospital.   The MRY plan's use of a central building tied to subsidiaries disposed at either side, while formally analogous to the arrangement of the hospital, occurred at a greater scale and somewhat to the east of the 1890s building it replaces (see the footprint plan in the Site history above).

The open land at the southeast corner of the Maynard block, currently a parking lot, is the largest of the five zones.   This tabula rasa gave the greatest freedom for the firms.

The four schemes were most distinct in this zone.   Stern proposed to place a symmetrically-planned dormitory of the form of the 1930s Ripley, Woodward and Smith Halls right on the corner of Maynard and College Streets.   The BCJ design, tying in with the dining hall to the west, walled off a slightly irregular quadrangle, creating the largest interior-block space of the four designs.   The MRY design fit somewhere between the two previous plans, establishing a formal face on College Street while sheltering an irregularly-shaped space behind it.   Zig-zagging dormitories prevented the MRY design from supporting too many straight-through sightlines.   The Polshek design, finally, reached across College Street to propose a building adjacent the Burke Chemistry Laboratory (PP).   The plan's main building, an idiosyncratic, T-shaped dormitory, would occupy the corner of the Maynard block.

Conclusions.   The varied entries presented several themes:

  Stern's design, because of its emphasis on axiality, right-angle alignments, and traditional Georgian architecture, was somewhat reminiscent of John Russell Pope's 1920s plans for the campus.   Stern's dining hall, in particular, with its pair of intersecting axes, was similar to Pope's proposal for a Dartmouth library.   While the skins of the buildings were traditional, their scale was anomalous, making them what Polshek would call "supergeorgian."

  The designs by Bohlin, Cywinski, Jackson showed a refreshingly off-kilter formality.   While each building was orderly and regular on its own, the buildings were arranged with a slightly haphazard hand, as if they had grown up that way over time.   The plan had an almost medieval aspect, especially in the capricious alignment of the building to the east of the dining hall, yet the whole did not slide into whimsy.

  The design by Moore Ruble Yudell placed the greatest emphasis on circular forms, whether in the dining hall colonnade or in the landscape feature at the head of the ravine (see below).   A sense of arrangement akin to that of the BCJ design kept the MRY plan from being too stiff, yet the formal symmetry emerged when it needed to in the support that the dormitories provided the dining hall.   The emphasis on colonnades betrayed a California background.

  The design by Polshek Partnership evinced the strongest modernism of the group.   The design proposed to replace more than half a dozen existing buildings with trees; the footprints (if not the arrangements) of the proposed buildings were self-consciously irregular and harmonized with their ahistorical glass-rich vocabulary, not depicted here.

The winning plan

The plan by Moore Ruble Yudell, which partnered with the Boston firm Bruner/Cott, won the competition. An aerial rendering and a photograph of a model are available at Bruner/Cott's website.

  The winning MRY plan
MRY Landscape, Maynard

In detail:   Landscape elements help define several of the key spaces that set the MRY plan apart.   First, diagonal paths mark the urban space created between the dormitories at the southeast corner of the block as an informal space.   The irregularly-massed buildings shield this space from the street.   The decision to orient the eastern dorm in response to the alignment of College Street gives the space a slightly trapezoidal shape, introducing some of the Romantic irregularity that makes this part of the BCJ plan appealing.   Naturalistic plantings, including trees, add the final touch to the student-oriented character of the space.

The lawn before the dining hall, on the other hand, serves as an extension of Berry Row .   It responds by presenting a formal appearance.   The situation is analogous to that of Baker Library as it terminates the north-south axis of the Green.   Here a hemicyclical colonnade and a broad, formal allee of trees create a balanced, regular space between the flanking dormitories.

Other, smaller spaces, such as the simple green lane behind Dick's House that terminates at the rear of the western dormitory, surround the dining hall.   The most unusual for Hanover is the colonnaded outdoor dining area nestled in the eastern flank of the dining hall.   Perhaps reflective of the firm's California roots, the space promises more than enough shade in December.

MRY Landscape, Ravine

The landscape treatment that the firm proposes for the ravine between Berry Library and Maynard Street sets its scheme apart.   While Berry Row itself comprises the standard axial lawn, it terminates before reaching Berry Library in a focal element, a sort of sunken garden or large circular well.   The well performs several functions: it handles the site's existing topography, which always has been a ravine and only gradually has risen to approach the grade of the surrounding streets.   The well's circular form also suits its role as the nexus of the several paths that cross the site.   Because the block deflects some thirty degrees to the northeast and widens at the same time, that the buildings and paths within it relate to each other at a variety of angles other than ninety degrees.   A circle handles this variety efficiently.   The smaller circular form of the plan of Kemeny's corner tower provides a counterpoint, another ripple within the pool; the curving row of trees marching down into the bowl might appear capricious if constructed.   Like the front of the Hopkins Center, this north-facing area may spend much of the year in shadow, a circumstance that Berry's height and the well's depth will only prolong.

At the eastern edge of Berry Row , the formal, axial lawn meets a more heavily-treed set of depressions; the circular form of the well permits the interface to undulate as it hugs a particular elevation.

Dartmo. :   The Buildings of Dartmouth College
This site: http://www.dartmo.com/northcampus/index.html
Written Fri Oct 4, 2002 by dartmo@gmail.com