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Mount Holyoke College

One with Nature: Mount Holyoke's Changing Landscape


New England is known for its landscape's permutations--spring's pungent scatterings of skunk cabbages meld into summer cornstalk phalanxes; hillsides bedecked in fall oranges and yellows give way to ice forests glimmering in winter light. The 800 acres of wetlands, forests, meadows, and lawns that encompass Mount Holyoke's campus are part of a natural and human-guided cycle of growth and renewal. This spring, as nesting robins looked on, crocuses made their debut, and campus frogs peeped, the College broke ground on two major construction projects, celebrated the completion of a third, and made plans for a fourth. Can a campus widely acknowledged as one of the most beautiful in the United States get any better? You bet.

A rendering of the redesigned Blanchard Campus Center.  

"A good campus landscape requires constant vigilance. There is no such thing as a natural state of things in the New England landscape. Change and evolution are ongoing." So says campus planner Phillip Parsons, who has served as a consultant to the College as it develops a master plan for preserving the campus landscape and planning for its growth. Parsons, whose proposals are designed to result in a landscape that encourages social and intellectual vitality, has suggested a return to the original character of the campus--proposing to open up obscured vistas and emphasize views of lakes and streams.

A series of campus-planning forums beginning in March of last year has encouraged the College community to become involved in the planning process. During the inaugural forum, President Joanne Creighton posed key questions: "How do we make the campus more functional, more vibrant, and even more beautiful? How do we make it inviting and enlivening, a campus that draws people in? How do we showcase its assets? Uncover its hidden potential? Overcome its deficiencies and liabilities? How do we develop the campus as a living laboratory and an ecologically responsible habitat?"

Such questions have most likely been asked and answered many times during the College's 164-year history. During the earliest years, founder Mary Lyon guided landscaping, asking students to contribute seeds and shrubs to beautify the new campus. Later, architects, including the firm of the legendary Frederick Law Olmsted, helped direct the development of the College's landscape.

Over the years, in response to curricular and cocurricular needs, the campus has emerged as a vital and evolving entity. Four years ago, needs were identified in the areas of music, art, and science, and in 1998 the board of trustees voted to make facilities improvements in these domains fundraising priorities of The Campaign for Mount Holyoke College. On the drawing board right now are building plans that will enhance cocurricular life. And the landscape of the College is changing once again.

The Jackhammer Hum: Music to the Ears of Mount Holyoke

  The newly renovated McCulloch Auditorium in Pratt Hall.
Says Larry Schipull, associate professor of music, "Programmatically, the music department is state of the art. It's the facility that needed to catch up." With such innovations as a virtual room that simulates acoustical environments and a forty-seat, fully mediated classroom, catch up it has. A $6.3-million construction and renovation project, begun in March of 2000 and completed in fall of that year, united Pratt Hall, built in 1909, and the Hammond Wing, added in 1967, through the construction of a two-story addition. The mediated classroom, new studio offices, and a skylit connecting corridor were created through new construction, and all existing space in Pratt and Hammond was renovated. Other improvements include soundproofing instructional and performance spaces, consolidation of the music and dance libraries, the creation of a lounge area, and air-conditioning. Pratt's auditorium has been named in honor of Dorothy Rooke McCulloch '50 and Norman E. McCulloch Jr. Pratt's music library has been named for Eleanor Pierce Stevens '25.

On View: The Art Building and Art Museum Project
New classrooms; studio space; advanced imaging, design, and research technology; and expanded exhibition and storage space for the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum will result from the $6.1-million art renovation and new construction project currently under way and expected to be completed by this fall. On the first floor, 3,400 square feet of gallery space will be added to the art museum, and its storage area will be renovated and expanded. New spaces will be provided for seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century art in addition to modern and contemporary art, much of which has been in storage for the last decade because of limited exhibition space.

High-Tech Previews

State-of-the-art technology--ranging from Macromedia Dreamweaver, Fireworks, and Flash to Studio Max, Premiere and Photoshop--is enabling the College to provide high-tech glimpses of things to come and construction in progress. Computer-generated virtual "tours" of the science and art buildings, created in 3-D animation, can be see by clicking here. A tour of the music building is also available. Visit here to see a Webcam view of construction in progress on the science center.

Space will also be dedicated to a study gallery/classroom, to be used primarily by students and programmed collaboratively by museum staff and art department faculty. The rejuvenated art building will include a visual studies lab; expanded space for the slide collection that will incorporate state-of-the-art image preparation; a reference library; and two mediated classrooms. Art history classes will benefit from improved access to digitized imagery and online resources. On the third floor, sculpture classroom space will be reconfigured to provide flexibility and space and equipment for work on large-scale projects. A new elevator will connect all floors of the art building, making it possible to move effortlessly between the art museum and the art department. Michael Davis, professor of art, said his involvement in the art museum project has changed the way he thinks about and teaches architecture. "The goal is not simply to put up new walls, but to bring the building into the twenty-first century and make it a facility that can support, in a vigorous and active way, the quality of the program that we are building."

Eliminating Disciplinary Boundaries: The Science Center
The new $34.5-million science center will provide 116,000 gross square feet of new construction and renovated space and will meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards established by the United States Green Building Council. A new multistory, 38,000-square-foot building, connecting current buildings Clapp, Shattuck, Cleveland, and Carr, will serve as the nexus for the science complex, allowing for greater interaction among the sciences. It will feature a 3,000-square-foot, four-story atrium that will serve as a gathering place for the entire College community. Carr Laboratories and Shattuck Hall, built in 1955 and 1932, respectively, will be renovated. The completed center will provide state-of-the-art teaching and research laboratories, classrooms, and offices to meet the departmental needs of biological sciences, biochemistry, chemistry, physics, and computer science. Construction, which will be done in phases, started in May.

Phase one will be the new addition, which should be completed by the summer of 2002. This building, largely funded by an anonymous donor, will be called Kendade Hall. The complete interior renovation of Carr will be undertaken in phase two, starting in January of next year with completion by January 2003. The final phase of the project, scheduled to begin in summer 2002 and to be completed in summer 2003, will involve the renovation to Shattuck. Says Donal O'Shea, dean of the faculty, "The end result of the renovation and new construction will be a facility that promotes genuine cross-disciplinary interaction between the sciences, thereby reflecting the way cutting-edge science is done at disciplinary boundaries by collaborating groups of people."

Lakeside Dining and More: The Blanchard Campus Center Project
Plans are under way for a complete renovation of Blanchard Campus Center, with the goal of transforming the interior into a vital center for dining, entertainment, and social activity. At its May meetings, Mount Holyoke's board of trustees authorized the College to build the project to meet the same Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards being used for the science center. Project highlights include a cyber café, coffee bar, art gallery, game room, performance space, College store, information counter, and mailroom. The radio station, student programs offices, and meeting rooms will be on the upper floor. Additions to the building will expand it to the north and south and provide views of the lake. Construction on the additions may begin as early as fall 2001, and interior renovations will be under way in 2002.

Mount Holyoke's milieu has always been an integral part of the educational experience the College provides. An extraordinary fusion of natural beauty and majestic architecture, the campus is a catalyst for intellectual growth. While the seasons have turned, and students, faculty, and staff have come and gone, Mount Holyoke's landscape has endured--cementing a bond among those who walk the campus today, those who came before them, and future generations.