Delays in Science Quad construction

Construction on the Edward Williams Morley Science Laboratories is experiencing some delays, which are likely to cause class scheduling problems in the science departments spring semester.

While completing the middle phase of the three-stage construction project, the subcontractor providing the cabinetry and casework declared bankruptcy. The supply problem delayed the opening of the new addition from June to August 1999.

However, this three-month delay has further consequences. The delays will cut into the time allotted to the renovation of the three Thompson Laboratory buildings.

The biology and chemistry buildings were to be renovated this fall and winter, to be finished by January 2000. At that time, renovations would shift to the Physics building. However, due to the delay, all three buildings must be renovated simultaneously during the second semester. This will cause a lack of space for spring semester science classes.

“The initial plan was to never have more than two Thompson science buildings down at one time,” said Charles Lovett, chair of the building project and Philip and Dorothy Schein Professor of Chemistry. Classroom space is already tight due to the construction. The Registrar’s Office and the science faculty are looking into the situation and possible solutions.

The construction project, which will connect the three Thompson Laboratory buildings with the Bronfman Science Center and Morley Laboratory, a new teaching and research lab facility, is the largest in the College’s history. Teaching and research laboratories, classrooms, offices and the new Schow Science Library will make up the impressive 140,000 square-foot facility. “We’re modernizing the science facilities so that they meet the standards of the way late twentieth and twenty-first century science is done,” said Assistant Professor of Biology Nancy Roseman. Begun in 1997, the construction stretches over three phases, scheduled to finish in summer 2000.

Initially, the project was to consolidate the six small separate science division libraries into one unit and to update the chemistry building. From there it has evolved into a construction plan that involves all of the sciences and science buildings.

The construction and renovations of the science quad are sorely needed. “It needed to be done and should have been done a long time ago,” Associate Professor of Biology and Chair of the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Program Daniel Lynch said. The Thompson Biology, Chemistry and Physics buildings are over 100 years old. “The older science buildings [Thompson Biology, Chemistry and Physics] hadn’t received any substantial renovation for a while. Some of the chemistry labs dated back to the 1950s,” Assistant Director of Construction Services Eric Beattie said.

In addition to bringing the old science center up to date, the science quad needs more space to serve all of the College’s science needs. Lovett described the project as “catching up on badly needed space.” Since the last renovations of the science center, the number of students and faculty in the science department has doubled. The most recent addition to the science quad was the Bronfman Science Center in 1967.

According to Bryce Babcock, Lecturer for Physics and Coordinator of the Bronfman Science Center, “Bronfman is still a very good facility, but when it was initially occupied, nearly one quarter of the building was ‘shell’ space available for storage and expansion. Now every square foot is accounted for and we have found ourselves building into former hall space to provide adequate lab space.”

One aspect of the new science center is the emphasis on interactions between faculty of the different science divisions. This trend has been a part of the science department for a while, but now it is being physically incorporated into the new facility. Faculty of the different sciences are clustered by similar interests and research. “Clustering is very nice,” said Lynch. “It improves efficiency. Within the many areas of specialties, there are common pieces of equipment that they need to share. [The clustering] will make it easier to share equipment.”

In addition, the design of the building is planned around such interactions. Large open atriums and causeways connecting the four buildings and areas built specifically for formal and informal meetings for students and faculty are an integral part of the design. “The traffic [between connected buildings and departments] will generate discussions and hallway conversations,” Ebenezer Fitch Professor of Astronomy Karen Kwitter said.

However, despite the obvious necessity and advantages of the new science center, some sentimental attachments to the old buildings remain. Said Kwitter, “It is quite sad to realize that when I come back [to the renovated Thompson Physics building], this won’t be an office anymore. It will be a hallway. I’ve had this office longer than I’ve lived in any house.”