Campus Master Plan Enters Final Stages

Imagine walking out of a spacious biology lab through a second story glass walkway into a new and improved engineering building. Or, perhaps, eating a Sharples meal at an outdoor table and then doing yoga in a new wellness center by the Field House. Future Swarthmore students could have all of these experiences and many more, according to the final draft of the Campus Master Plan on Thursday March 7. The plan focused on four aspects of the campus that will see changes in the coming years: Entry and Arrival, Student Life, Athletics and Academics.

Not all of the proposals shown at the unveiling forum will necessarily take place, however. “We’re going to have to make choices based on where opportunities for funding are,” said Provost Thomas Stephenson, who co-chaired the Master Plan Advisory Committee. He also noted the helpfulness of Eugene Lang’s ’38 $50 million donation this past fall with regard to getting started on the Science Center and Hicks Hall renovations and additions.

Proposed changes in entry and arrival would focus on more clearly directing visitors towards campus and improving the general arrival experience. Efforts would be aimed towards refining signage at the Chester Road and College Avenue intersection to direct visitors to a slightly larger and greener Benjamin West parking lot. As the primary entry point, Ben West would allow visitors to see Parrish Hall from a lower point on Magill Walk, a vista that many find inspiring.

Changes in buildings affecting student life  revolved heavily around the need to accommodate a potentially rising student population more efficiently.

“Historically, Swarthmore has grown over time,” Stephenson. “Right now we’re really maxed out in terms of student beds.”

Proposed additions to Willets, Palmer, Pittinger, Roberts, Dana, and Hallowell could see an increase of up to 200 beds while a new complex next to Mary Lyons could add up to 60. The new complex at Mary Lyons would be comprised of suite-like rooms in order to attract upperclassmen, hopefully creating a more class-diverse setting at what is traditionally a heavily underclassmen-populated dorm. The plan proposed renovations to Clothier Hall, which included getting rid of the current mezzanine level. Efforts would also be made to increase seating options in Sharples, among them an outdoor seating area.

Changes would also be implemented to increase parking options by eliminating spots around Fraternity Row and building a garage where the Faulkner tennis courts are currently located. The courts would be relocated to Cunningham Fields as part of the extensive athletics renovations proposed in the plan.

Beyond the addition of six new tennis courts, Cunningham Fields could also be renovated into three regulation size soccer fields, one of which might be surfaced with artificial turf. Furthermore, the Field House could see incremental renovations over the years with the inclusion of a two to three story building for additional office space and higher entry point for those visiting Clothier Field. The plan also proposed a new, three level wellness center where the squash currents are currently located.

Perhaps the most extensive renovations and additions proposed by the plan were those involving academic life on campus. McCabe Library could see expansions on both south and north sides with a focus on creating more translucency, that is, adding more and larger windows. The plan also proposed the option of a possible rooftop terrace on the southern renovations.

The performing arts buildings could also see some revamping with plans for a defined plaza area between the Lang Music Building, the Lang Performing Arts Center, and Martin Hall. Propositions for a lobby area in the Lang Music Building with a view of the Crum Woods have also been made.

The north end of campus could see the most substantial changes, however, with proposals to add a new building with a focus on Biology where the Dupont Parking Lot is currently located. In addition to revamping the Science Center, the plan proposed renovations and additions to Hicks Hall and renovations to Papazian Hall. The buildings would be joined to form an even larger Science Center complex with second and third level halls connecting the current Science Center to the new biology building, which in turn would be connected to the renovated Hicks and Papazian Halls. Martin Hall would be refitted to house more humanities departments, which could open up Beardsley Hall to accommodate a new art gallery.

One of the key focuses of the Campus Master Plan was how to build and expand with an eye to sustainability, and many of the proposals contain an element of environmental consciousness. The parking garage at the Faulkner Courts could be home to a green roof that,would be more aesthetically pleasing than bare concrete and would create a space for a student vegetable garden. The natural, east-west orientation of the campus means buildings get a good southern exposure, which facilitates energy efficiency.

Students need not worry about construction disrupting campus life anytime too soon either. Although administrators are in the process of finding an architect for the Science Center and Hicks Hall renovations, ground-breaking still appears to be a ways away.

“We could see something certainly within eighteen months,” said Stu Hain, vice president for facilities and services and co-chair of the Campus Master Plan Advisory Committtee. Hain also recalled the intricacies of renovating the Science Center early in the previous decade, a process which was completed in nine separate phases. “I don’t think any of this will be as complex,” he said.

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