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Building Success All Summer Long

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This Week at MHC

Mount Holyoke College News and Events Vista The College Street Journal Archives

August 29, 2003

Building Success All Summer Long

Photo: Todd M. LeMieux

The grand staircase in the atrium of the newly renovated Blanchard Campus Center connects the building’s three levels.

From Morgan Street to Park Street, hard hats were en vogue on campus this summer. And while styles generally change with the season, this one is leaving a legacy. The summer’s new construction and renovation will further equip Mount Holyoke to prepare women for the challenges of the next century.


“This just may be the busiest building season in Mount Holyoke’s history,” said John Bryant, director of facilities management. “Of course, the science center and Blanchard Campus Center projects are largest and most visible, but many other significant capital improvements are under way this summer. Faculty and staff have been great about cooperating with all the inconveniences.”


According to Bryant, extensive improvements have been made to Cleveland and Wilder Halls, Clapp Laboratory, the Miles-Smith Science Library, and the Gorse Child Study Center. The new Jewett Lane parking lot; the stone steps in the 1904 Garden; and countless smaller projects, including new fire alarms, paving, and steam lines, are now complete.


Photo: Todd M. LeMieux

The exterior of Blanchard’s Great Room, which offers a panoramic view of Lower Lake.

President Joanne V. Creighton echoed Bryant’s assessment. “The transformation of our campus over the past few years is the result of one of the most ambitious building and renovation projects in our history,” Creighton said. “I want to thank all of those who have worked so hard to carry out such a determined program so successfully. I especially want to thank our facilities management staff, contractors, and the hundreds of construction workers who have labored so diligently to carry through so many projects to successful completion.”


Many of the major projects now being completed (or which were finished in recent years, such as the significantly renovated Pratt Hall and the Art Museum expansion), were identified by the College’s Plan for Mount Holyoke 2003. Now, even as builders and landscapers put the finishing touches on current projects, the College community has begun to consider future projects as part of the planning template contained in the Plan for Mount Holyoke 2010.


Bringing It All Together

On the science front, the renovation of Shattuck Hall—the third phase in the 118,000-square-foot science center addition and renovation project—was completed. Bryant described the result as a total transformation. “Shattuck was a gorgeous building to begin with. It had beautiful architectural elements, including gothic windows and leaded glass,” Bryant noted. “But as far as I know, there has never been a top-to-bottom renovation of Shattuck since its completion in 1933. It really needed some freshening up.” Throughout the summer, crews renovated all the building’s finishes, installed air-conditioning, added sprinklers, and updated the plumbing, electrical, and fire alarm systems. New lighting and carpets also were on the work order, as was preserving the original woodwork and windows. The departments that now call Shattuck home—physics, political science, women’s studies, and English—began settling in during early August. Like the other buildings in the science center, Shattuck conforms to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) criteria for a “green building” as established by the United States Green Building Council.


Though designated as the third of a four-phase project, the renovation of Shattuck completes the new $34-million science center. The Clapp-Kendade connector, which was scheduled as the fourth phase, was finished a year early. According to Frank DeToma, Professor of Biological Sciences on the Alumnae Foundation and director of the science center, Mount Holyoke’s facilities are now light-years ahead of what they used to be. “The science center brings us up to where we should be as a science facility for research and teaching,” DeToma said. “It’s also a wonderful recruitment tool because as we interview science faculty candidates, they see this manifestation of the College’s commitment to supporting the sciences. It’s right in front of them in bricks and mortar.”


Meanwhile, Shattuck’s neighbor, Cleveland Hall, also received a summer makeover. Though technically not part of the science center construction, the College opted to renovate Cleveland concurrently since it is bordered on three sides by the complex. “In order to keep consistent architecture, we designed Cleveland to match in terms of paints, color schemes, and carpeting,” said DeToma. This fast-track project, which began in May and ended in August, involved completely refurbishing Cleveland’s three large lecture halls with new finishes, cabinetry, acoustical treatments, lighting, air-conditioning, mediation, and more comfortable seating. Room L3, which is generally a physics lecture room, now boasts fixed tables and movable chairs. Along with the interior work, the entire roof—not just the roofing—had to be removed and new joists added, both to address a snow-drifting issue and to bring it up to code.


Welcome to Main Street

Photo:Fred LeBlanc

Administrative assistant Eileen Rakouskas and John Laprade, manager of Blanchard Campus Center and director of student programs, move into their new offices located on Blanchard’s top floor.

Another landmark project completed this summer was the renovation and expansion effort aimed at increasing the vitality of the Blanchard Campus Center. The construction, which began in June 2001, peaked this summer with up to 170 people on the site daily and crews working seven days a week. “Blanchard was a complete interior gut renovation that has enhanced the building’s functional and aesthetic qualities,” said Bryant. “All work was done with an eye toward earning LEED certification.”


High praise has also been garnered for Blanchard’s redesign. The end result is striking; old elements such as Blanchard’s historic masonry, stained bead board ceiling, and massive wood trusses now blend with lighter maples, stainless steel, and copper. Three levels are now connected by a central atrium with a 60-foot skylight and a newly installed grand staircase. As a result, Blanchard has become much more integrated and is infused with natural light. The entrance from Skinner Green invites one into Blanchard’s “Main Street,” a high-traffic area that is home to the campus store, information desk, coffee bar (fittingly named Uncommon Grounds), mailroom, a lounge, meeting rooms, the art gallery, and tables for student groups and vendors. Designed to evoke a streetscape, the southern addition’s interior possesses exterior accent elements, such as pedestal light fixtures, railings, and exposed brick (some from what was formerly Blanchard’s south exterior).


Photo:Todd M. LeMieux

Blanchard’s 60-foot skylight.

Below Main Street, on the lower level, Blanchard’s new dining facilities will offer a range of culinary options. Dale Hennessey, director of dining services, is especially enthusiastic about the Blanchard Café’s new gas-fired brick oven. “It weighs about 11,000 pounds. It’s so big that the room had to be built around it. Because of it, we’re going to be able to offer specialty pizzas and calzones, and eventually we may be able to bake our own bread,” said Hennessey. Another change is that Blanchard now will be on the student board plan for lunch (11 am– 3 pm) and dinner (3 pm–1 am). While Hennessey feels that “the look alone of Blanchard and its food venues is incredible,” she’s most excited that the new campus center offers students “yet another form of variety in terms of dining options.”


Photo:Fred LeBlanc

(left to right) Blanchard Café manager Jeff Sadowski, Brian Smith, Jamie Farnum, and
Holly Delphia will serve up pizzas and calzones from the new gas-fired brick oven

Adjoining the atrium dining space is the 5,000-square-foot Great Room offering a two-story glass wall with views of Lower Lake and a range of seating venues, both private and communal. The room was designed so that all tables and chairs can be removed to create a space for concerts and dances.


Two floors up, on Blanchard’s third level, is the student programs office, as well as offices for the SGA, Mount Holyoke News, Llamarada, the campus radio station, and other student groups. The building is now completely wired for data and has full card access. Blanchard will be formally dedicated on September 3 after convocation.


But Wait—There’s More

Four other summer projects also significantly changed the MHC landscape. The most obvious is Gorse Child Study Center’s new look.


Photo:Todd M. LeMieux

Gorse Child Study Center

A new air-handling system was installed on its old flat roof, and a pitched roof was built above that system. Other changes can be seen throughout Clapp Laboratory, but primarily on its third and fourth floors as a result of a reorganization of the earth and environment department. Using space freed up by the completion of Carr and Shattuck, several spaces have been renovated to better serve the needs of earth and environment. Two new fully mediated, 48-person classrooms have also been realized on Clapp’s third and fourth floors. Another reorganization occurred on the fourth floor of Miles-Smith, where LITS established an information commons to address the increased demand for both computers and support services to assist with navigation of online research sources, and for spaces that allow small groups to work together on collaborative projects. Last, but certainly not least, was the conversion of Wilder to an accessible and ADA-compliant residence hall on Skinner Green. Improvements included the installation of a front ramp, a new elevator serving all floors, and the renovation of every bathroom. A number of rooms throughout the building also were refitted to be fully adjustable for students who are mobility impaired.


As sophomores, juniors, and seniors explore the campus’s new facilities, first-year students are settling into the only MHC landscape they’ll ever know. “All of us in facilities management share a collective sense of accomplishment when we look at how the campus has been transformed,” says Bryant. “Many of our staff members have worked closely with the design consultants and outside contractors as part of a team effort to complete these worthwhile projects within aggressive schedules and often difficult conditions. We feel fortunate to work in a field that offers such tangible rewards for our efforts. There is much to be pleased about at summer’s end.”


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