The Science Center renewal project, aimed at replacing Bronfman Science Center and building state-of-the-art mathematics and science facilities, is now fully underway, with two new buildings – the “south building” to the side of Morley Circle and the “north building” replacing Bronfman – in different phases of design and construction. Plans for this project have been in the works since 2013, when the College hired architects to survey the current state of its mathematics and science facilities. Total construction will not be completed until fall of 2020.
The south building, which will be ready for academic use starting fall of 2018, will house around 30 research labs as well as student spaces and several faculty offices. The north building, which is still in the design phase, will primarily house classrooms for the psychology, mathematics/statistics and geosciences departments. Teams begin tackling abatement issues in October 2017, and construction for the north building will not begin until Bronfman is torn down during summer of 2018.
According to Executive Director for Design and Construction Rita Coppola-Wallace, the motivation for this construction project came from a 2013-2014 report drafted by architects who had surveyed the space. The group of architects drafting the report analyzed the current foundational structure of Bronfman, spoke to faculty and students about their changing needs and consulted departments as they dealt with increasing enrollment, increasing hires and changing research needs.
“The dramatic increase in the number of students taking Division III classes necessitated a look into our current capacities to teach that many students,” Professor of Physics and soon-to-be Interim College President Tiku Majumder said. “There has also been a demographic shift in our faculty as more members retire and are replaced [with] young, ambitious faculty with ambitious research plans. We want to be able to attract the best scholars who are also committed to undergraduate teaching.”
“In my opinion, having new state-of-the-art sciences buildings will bring the sciences way into the future,” Coppola-Wallace said. “The sciences are constantly evolving and constantly looking into the future, and we need our facilities to do just that.”
The new buildings not only allow for more lab spaces, flex offices and classrooms, but will also be more energy efficient than Bronfman in its current form, which was built in the 1960s. Although initially very different from Bronfman, designs for the north building have recently been updated to keep Bronfman’s flat room and brick exterior while modernizing the interior spaces with more glass walls and classrooms with daylight.
“People are much more pleased with the newest design because it has taken into account input from many different stakeholders [including] the Design Review Committee, [groups assembled by Majumder,] etc.,” Coppola-Wallace said. “I’m convinced it’s because it looks more like Bronfman and has taken the needs and opinions of students and faculty into account.”
According to Majumder, the planning, design and construction have involved student, faculty and staff input across many different departments via the Design Review Committee, conversations with groups of students and individual faculty members regarding research spaces and public presentations for community members.
“Right now, we’re focusing on the design of the interior of the north building,” Majumder said. “We’re thinking about how to get input from faculty and departments, but also how to get input from students. For example, how should we configure our classrooms, especially when faculty teach in different ways?”
In order to accommodate current students and faculty, particularly in the psychology and mathematics/statistics departments, Schow Library has opened up two new classrooms and psychology has temporarily been relocated to a modular unit on Stetson Court to free up the north side of Bronfman for asbestos abatement this fall.
In addition to the Science Center renewal project, the planning and/or construction for a new Williams Inn, the replacement of Garfield House, the renovation of the Center for Development Economics and the renovations to Goodrich Hall are also underway.
“There is more construction going on now than ever before,” Coppola-Wallace said. “Maintenance on this campus is exemplary, and all the facilities staff who work on this really do a fantastic job. However, there is only so much that you can do on maintenance alone, and every now and then you need to update building infrastructure.”