BY JANET TOBIN
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 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.
Hum: Music to the Ears of Mount Holyoke
The Art Building and Art Museum Project
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."
Disciplinary Boundaries: The Science Center
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."
Dining and More: The Blanchard Campus Center Project
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.