Buildings dominate College imagination
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Buildings dominate College imagination

by Abby Person

This year the College has made progress on several building projects. The proposed Environmental Studies Center, Science Center and talk of a new student union have generated interest on campus.

"There does seem to be a pent up demand for buildings," President of the College Nancy Dye said about the popularity of new building proposals this year.

Both the Environmental Studies Center and the Science Center were approved by the Board of Trustees this spring. Their approval marked a formal commitment by the College to the buildings.

Over the next few years, the College will look at a number of major construction projects. Construction of the Environmental Studies Center is slated to begin late this summer, but design time has taken longer than expected, so construction might be delayed.

The Environmental Studies Center, the most advanced building project thus far, will use technologies and materials that minimize environmental impacts.

The building's design makes use of natural energy resources and efficient landscaping. A living machine will be utilized for the building's waste water treatment.

Currently a review committee is finishing its review of the design documents and will offer the project to contractors. Environmental Studies intern Brad Masi said the committee is working on fine-tuning the energy systems to maximize on-site energy production.

"This building is very unique," Masi said. "We want to take our time to get a well integrated building."

Dye said the design delay is "not very surprising considering what a modern and new-fangled project it is."

The Board of Trustees approved an expanded budget for the planing of the Science Center at its March meeting. The college solicited credentials from architectural firms who were interested in the project. All 16 firms contacted replied with statements of qualifications. "We're looking at the world's most notable American architects," Bob Scheren, director of facilities, planning and construction said.

The Science Center is still in the conceptual design phase. The design was by Payette Associates out of Boston. Thus far, the program architecture has been primarily for cost and size estimates.

"We're looking for the compatibility of [the architect's] work with the Oberlin ethos," Scheren said.

Dye said, of the most recent conceptual design, "There is a wonderful new proposal that really does an extraordinary job with linking North with Central campus. I'm very excited about it."

The Allen Memorial Art museum was targeted for restoration by the Board of Trustees, adding to the proliferation of construction projects slated for the future. The Trustees approved a measure to transfer $600,000 originally intended for other maintenance projects to the recommended interim restoration work on the art complex. "The museum is now top priority," Bill Perlick, chair of the board of trustees, said.

The building is suffering from serious structural damage caused in part by humidity and temperature control procedures that were not accounted for in the original design of the building. When an addition was made in 1977, a complete climate control system was also installed in the Gilbert building to give the museum the control over temperature and relative humidity necessary for the proper care of the collection. However, some of the original ventilation vents were sealed. At the same time, the temperature and relative humidity of the building were increased as planned in the interests of the collection.

Though no concrete student union building project has been developed, many say that Wilder is an inadequate structure for housing a student union.

"We've ended the possibilities we have here with this strucure," said Assistant Director of the Student Union Chris Baymiller. "We need more space to accommodate students." Baymiller said the ideal student center would have space for a student theater, student movie theater, larger restaurants and practice rooms for rock bands.

The weight of WOBC's 3,000 records is threatening to sink the station, but the Student Union is not a supportive structure in a number of other ways, according to the long range planning report, which states: "Oberlin lacks a central gathering place. It does not have a campus center or student union that is designed to create and support a sense of community."

A glimpse into the future:The Environmental Studies Center plans evolved during the year. (photo courtesy of the Service Building)


Copyright © 1997, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 125, Number 25, May 23, 1997

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