New academic buildings open

The opening of the North and South Academic Buildings, the first completed stage of the Stetson-Sawyer project, has been met with wide acclaim from both students and faculty.

“The overall faculty response to the building – from offices to public space to the general feel of the buildings – has been extremely positive,” said Stephen Klass, vice president for operations.

“I have German 101 in the [North Academic] Building and I love it. It’s really nice and open and way better than Stetson. There is no getting confused when trying to find your way,” said Tim Lengel ’11.

The buildings were completed on time this August and within budget, costing approximately $35 million. Upon completion, 160 faculty members from departments in Division I and Division II – with the exception of the music, art and art history departments – moved into them.

“Moving the faculty was a tremendous logistical challenge but it went very smoothly,” said David Pilachowski, college librarian and co-chair of the Stetson-Sawyer Building Committee.

In addition to leaving Stetson Hall, the building that housed the majority of professors that taught in both divisions, faculty left buildings all across campus. Weston, the former language building, now houses both the Office of Career Counseling and Office Services. Harper House, which was occupied by the philosophy department until August, is now the temporary home of the Center for Environmental Studies. And the Office of Information Technology Services, formerly located in Stetson, has been moved to Dodd Annex.

The future use of other empty faculty buildings is still under review. “As uses [of buildings] change, different code issues are triggered, so the expense associated with various moves has to be compared,” said Klass.

The North Academic Building, 59,000 square feet in size, houses 102 offices, six classrooms, three meeting rooms and seven lounges. Its 42,000 square foot counterpart to the south contains 63 offices, four classrooms, one meeting room and five lounges. Classrooms in both buildings suit various class sizes, ranging from eight to 44. The two buildings were modeled after the College’s science complex, with its plethora of quasi-public spaces interspersed between faculty offices, state of the art computer facilities and classrooms, according to Michael Brown, professor of anthropology and co-chair of the Stetson-Sawyer Building Committee.
“Our goal was to create an exciting space that supports and encourages a lively academic community,” Brown said. “We didn’t want the buildings to be too uniform and corporate.”
To prevent uniformity, each non-visiting faculty member was given the opportunity to design and personalize his or her offices. “Each of us was presented with a blueprint of the space that we were assigned, and we had a chance to look at the brand of desks, chairs, shelves and file cabinets from which we could choose,” said professor of philosophy, Joe Cruz, who looked at photos of Bertrand Russell’s office for inspiration. “My aesthetic is Victorian, but the design of the new buildings – which I otherwise like – makes it somewhat difficult to realize that look.”

The buildings are on track to receive a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Certification. Green features include water-efficient landscaping, use of local and recycled building materials, maximal use of natural light and waterless toilets. Energy consumption is expected to be about 20 percent more efficient through use of variable speed drives, high performance glazing and insulation, automatic lighting controls, demand control ventilation and occupancy sensors that set back temperatures and ventilation rates, according to the Office of Public Affairs.

Although the buildings are fully functional, the architects need to complete furnishing and finish up minor details – a process which will probably take a few months. “As with any complex project like this, the ‘punch list’ of minor touchup items is ongoing, so you’ll still see a lift working on the exterior or the occasional painter inside,” said Klass.

The buildings have yet to be named. “While I’m not aware of any imminent announcements along these lines, exciting new buildings like these always present nice naming opportunities, whether it’s the entire building or individual spaces,” Klass said.

The North and South Academic Buildings will be open for public viewing on Sept. 13 from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

The Library Shelving Facility

While the Academic Buildings were being completed this July, Pilachowski was busy moving the Stetson and Chapin Library collections and archives to the just-completed Library Shelving Facility (LSF) located on Simonds Road, a mile and a half north of campus. With the departure of faculty to the new buildings, the removal of the collections was a necessary step towards renovating Stetson and gutting its two most recent additions to make room for the new library.

“It was a gargantuan undertaking to prepare, pack and move the collections from Archives, the Chapin Library, and Sawyer journal storage to the Library Shelving Facility,” Pilachowski said. “We had to transport 60,000 rare books, collections that represent the history of the College and tens of thousands of journals during a three week blitz.” He praised the efforts of Chapin and Archives staffs, in addition to the professional movers from National Library Relocations, Inc.

LSF, a 10,000 square foot concrete box, has the space to accommodate about 900,000 volumes. Books are sorted by size, not subject, and are retrieved through an automated fork-lift system, allowing for maximal capacity. Construction of LSF began in July 2007 and was completed this May. The project cost five million dollars, just under budget projections.

The building serves dual purposes. “It is a temporary storage facility to accommodate collections during Stetson renovation and new Sawyer construction, as well as a long-term location to accommodate our growing collections, as it has the potential to be expanded several times,” Pilachowski said.

Selected documents from Chapin Library and the College Archives have moved to temporary quarters in the Southworth School and will occupy three faculty apartments for the next three years during construction. Library staff at the College Archives and the Chapin Library went through great efforts to work with faculty to identify which materials were crucial for research and educational purposes during the period when the library operations will be in temporary quarters. Historical journals that were moved to LSF, as well as all of the Archives and Chapin materials not at Southworth, will not be retrievable until approximately January 2009. Users will be able to use the inter-library loan system to obtain these materials until then.

To make space for new volumes in Sawyer, which is close to capacity, and later in the new library, LSF will become the permanent home of out-dated library journals which will be available electronically.

Next Steps

The next steps in the Stetson-Sawyer Project will be to remove all the furniture and equipment from Stetson Hall, inspect the building for asbestos and then by February of 2009, tear down its two most recent additions to make room for the library. Pilachowski hopes to break ground on the new library by March.

Simultaneously, Pilachowski and Brown plan to completely renovate Stetson Hall, while maintaining its traditional appearance. The top floors of Stetson will house approximately 18 faculty offices and two classrooms. The entry level lobby area will be part of a plush 24-hour study area for the new library. It will also provide a video conference room to support collaborative, remote learning, along with two small group study rooms and new restrooms. The Mabey Room, the former Williams College Archives and Special Collections, will become a seminar room. The lower level of Stetson will house compact shelving for most of the special collections holdings of the Archives and Chapin Library, according to Pilachowski.

“We want to restore Stetson to its original 1923 glory,” Brown said. “The interior of Stetson will be treated respectfully, to the extent that this is possible given modern building codes. We’re particularly excited about restoring the grand reading room that was converted into a faculty lounge in the mid-1970s.”

The new library will be 125,000 square feet, 25,000 square feet larger than Sawyer. By fully utilizing the LSF and installing compact shelving, Pilachowski hopes to ensure that the building is very open while also maintaining a variety of seating arrangements, in stark contrast to Sawyer, where overcapacity resulted in compression of seating space.

The renovated Stetson Hall and new library should be ready for the start of classes in September of 2011. Then to complete the project, in late 2011 or early 2012, Sawyer will be demolished carefully, so as not to harm the neighboring Academic Buildings, resulting in a central quadrangle on campus enveloped by the two Academic Buildings, Stetson and Paresky.

The Stetson-Sawyer project is being undertaken by architects from Bohlin Cywinski Jackson with an estimated budget of $137 million.