Construction on Martin Hall began on March 3. Martin Hall is being reimagined as a space for the computer science and film and media studies departments, as well as for a media center. The renovations are scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2025. The building will be open to the public at the start of the 2025-26 academic year.
Martin Hall was constructed in 1936 and served as a space for the biology and biochemistry departments. After the college opened the Maxine Frank Singer Hall in 2019, the departments moved out of Martin Hall and into Singer Hall in 2021.
In an email to The Phoenix, Project Manager and Director Roderick Wolfson wrote about the current construction project. He emphasized that the plan of construction aims to cause as little disruption as possible to academic spaces on campus.
“Demolition inside Martin is underway now and will continue for the rest of the spring semester. Beginning the interior work now will allow the most disruptive demolition work, which includes removing the greenhouse and the west wing, to be completed prior to the start of the fall semester,” he said.
Wolfson elaborated on the college’s desire to match the growing demands of the computer science and film and media studies departments, especially due to increased occupancy and an outgrown space.
“The computer science department has become one of the most highly enrolled at the college, and many students complement their work in other majors with computer science coursework,” he remarked. “The new space in Martin Hall will allow decompression of the program from the undersized space in the Science Center and will provide appropriate teaching and research spaces, faculty and instructional staff offices, and administrative space for the department.”
In addition to the renovations for the computer science department, Wolfson also addressed renovations that will contribute to the film and media studies department.
“The film and media studies department has also grown significantly in the last several years, outgrowing their current space in Kohlberg Hall. Martin will provide appropriate and well-equipped spaces for production, editing and viewing of film and media, along with space for students, faculty, and staff as the department expands to meet increasing demand for enrollment, curriculum, and student engagement,” he noted.
The relocation of the Media Center will feature several unique spaces to support the student body and interdisciplinary collaboration. Such unique spaces include an outdoor plaza, audio and video editing rooms, technological equipment loans, a black box A-V studio, a 44-seat film screening room, a multimedia gallery, and an indoor study space with views of the Crum Woods.
There are also sustainable goals encompassed in the building’s renovations. The hall will be connected to the college’s geo-exchange system, which is currently being implemented on Mertz Lawn. Wolfson commented on efforts to increase the energy efficiency of the new building while simultaneously preserving its historic architecture.
“In keeping with the plan to become completely sustainable by 2035, careful architectural detailing will increase the energy efficiency of the existing building facade without compromising the historic character of the building,” he noted.
In an interview with The Phoenix, William Huang ’23 voiced his enthusiasm for the construction of the new building and seeing the structure be put to use at Swarthmore. He noted that because the building had been vacated as a result of the biology and biochemistry departments’ moves to Singer Hall, he never had the opportunity to experience Martin Hall.
“If you can believe it, I’ve actually never been inside of Martin Hall. By the time I became curious about it, the building had already been closed off,” he said. “I welcome the transformation of Martin Hall into a new technology and media center. I definitely look forward to returning to campus and exploring the new space.”
Currently, the only spaces for computer science students are located in the Science Center and in the Clothier Hall basement, where there is a computer lab. Abhijet Das ’26 commented on the potential benefits of the new building, one of which is a more centralized space for computer science students.
“I am excited for the renovations because this school would definitely benefit from an increase in resources for the computer science department. Mainly, more options for classes would be great for students. Also, I hope this part of the new building can serve as a central hub for computer science students. We currently don’t have a dedicated space aside from the basement of Essie’s,” Das said.
On the other hand, Huang ’23 pointed out the negative aspects of such a transition for the computer science department. The two different locations of the computer science labs separates computer science students from one another. If all labs are moved to Martin Hall, this could create an opportunity for computer science students to interact with one another. But it could also separate computer science students from non-majors.
“There are some computer science majors who have never bumped into each other and had a conversation. At the same time, if all labs move to Martin Hall, that may cause an overcompensation in the other direction, where computer science students end up mostly seeing and interacting with other CS students,” Huang said.
In addition to the academic space, Jefrey Torres ’26, a prospective double major in computer science and engineering, shared his hopes for non-academically related pursuits in the renovated Martin Hall.
“I hope that the renovated building has various spaces that allow for students to relax or do work in between their classes. I also look forward to an expansion in technology that allows for students to explore interests that don’t necessarily follow what they have been learning in their classes,” Torres said.
Prospective film and media studies major Osamudia Atekha ’26 expressed his eagerness about the construction in relation to his experience with the film and media studies department.
“Personally, I haven’t met many film and media studies majors, and the combination of it not being popular at Swarthmore with the lack of Canon C100s makes me believe Swarthmore is indifferent to the film and media studies department. So, to hear the news is exciting,” he explained.
In Wolfson’s view, the project is especially significant for the college’s future because it addresses the needs of the film and media studies department as well as the computer science department. Not only will the new building accommodate students within these two disciplines, but it will also serve as a space to connect the community at large.
“This project marks a big step forward for Swarthmore’s academics and campus,” said Wolfson. “The plaza will also be used as a service point connecting to the Lang Performing Arts Center and Lang Music buildings, and it is also designed to allow for studying, socializing, classes, or events, with views to the entrances of all three buildings, to encourage linkages between academic departments and to provide additional opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to enjoy outdoor space for respite and gathering.”