This year, Wellesley students, faculty and staff witnessed renovations that affected large swaths of the community. Pomeroy Hall received an improved living room, TV room and Blue Room. Shafer Hall received a new living room. McAfee Hall received a new student room, flooring improvements and a refurbished living room. The Field House underwent major renovations; the revamped 4,000 square-foot Fitness Center in the Keohane Sports Center was unveiled to an eager public on Jan. 28 and receives over 1,200 swipes a week, according to Vice President for Finance and Administration Ben Hammond. The Boathouse on Lake Waban is slated to reopen in mid- May and will include a new main entrance, preparation room, better shop space, a room for canoes and kayaks and storage space. These changes, part of the $550 million Campus Renewal plan, were completed on schedule and set another large-scale plan in motion: preparing Pendleton West (PNW) for a major reconstructive effort from June 2015 to August 2016.
Such preparations will need to be executed in a small window of time, noted art professor Phyllis McGibbon, a key figure in pushing for the renovations. Currently, the art department’s faculty, students and maintenance staff are putting printmaking machines into storage, filing away unneeded materials into boxes and planning how to most efficiently empty Pendleton West by the time summer starts, when students leave campus and renovation workers swarm onto the Quad. Since the construction workers will be reconstructing much of the interior of the west wing of Pendleton starting on June 8, all current furniture and materials need to be removed from the building.
The Pendleton West renovations are one of the earliest Campus Renewal projects to begin construction, which McGibbon attributes to the status of the building, noting its poor condition and the dire need for internal renovations to better serve Wellesley.
When inspectors and architects went to visit the building in 2010, they offered a dire diagnosis of its current condition.
“Your building is outdated, unsafe and alarming,” McGibbon summarized.
McGibbon described Pendleton West as a 25-year old swing space, a building whose form did not line up with its function and has been in need of transformation for a while.
“This building is designed to be an instrument. It’s designed to be played and used,” McGibbon noted, going on to describe how problems with toxic materials tracking into the building from the foundry and ventilation have prevented the wing from reaching its potential. McGibbon added that since the building will be populated by thousands of people doing intensive studio and musical work, it needs to be able to withstand abuse.
The primary goals regarding the Pendleton West renovations are optimizing the space’s functionality, sustainability and accessibility. Air conditioning will be added for the first time, new sound recording studio will be installed, space will be opened up for more sunlight to reach the middle of the building and the new internal space will be painted in neutral and understated colors so as not to detract from the quality of the art being displayed. Lounge and break spaces will also be added for students to rest. The various people involved with Wellesley 2025 are also exploring ways to convert the energy-guzzling building into a more ecologically friendly one, striving to achieve LEED certification with the completion of the project. To increase accessibility, a walkway will be built on the hill from Pendleton West to Lulu and an elevator will be installed at the bottom of the hill facing College Road. The elevator will be connected to a new state-of- the-art lecture room fit for all departments that will be an expanded version of PNW 212. The space across from PNW 212 will be converted into additional offices. This room should be able to seat 49 students, be wheelchair accessible and feature windows facing College Road.
Areas near Pendleton West will also undergo related changes during the next year and a half. Pendleton West will be expanded towards Lulu and an arts courtyard will be installed on the hill near College Road. The additional space will feature more bathrooms and connect to the aforementioned staircase. Pendleton East will gain some permanent space as a result of the renovations and several professors will have their offices moved there. All three levels of Jewett will feature public gathering spaces that will be implemented by fall 2016. If these changes proceed according to plan, construction crews will be able to renovate the Greenhouses and Science Center in fall 2017.
The art department is adjusting to this change in a number of ways, according to McGibbon. There will be one fewer section of painting, 3D design and beginning drawing offered next year. This is partly due to the decrease in the amount of space available for teaching these courses and also because some professors will be on sabbatical next year. Printmaking classes will be moved to the book arts lab in the Clapp Library, and other arts courses previously taught in Pendleton West will be moved to Jewett. The main Jewett Gallery will become the new space for Beginning Drawing and Life Drawing next year, and temporary partitions will be hoisted to serve class needs. The music salon across from PNW 218 will be in Jewett 372, a former lecture room. A temporary painting studio in Jewett will host painting classes next year. Faculty offices will also be relocated to Jewett, enabling students taking arts classes to easily check in with their professors afterward. Classes will be held in Jewett and Clapp rather than alternative locations like the Distribution Center to minimize student walking time.
The art department has prioritized making sure that studio art, cinema and media studies, art history, architecture and media arts and science majors have the arts classes required to fulfill their respective degree requirements. The department is also reducing class sizes for courses that will be moved to smaller studio spaces and classrooms to optimize the learning experience of students taking art, architecture and related courses next year. In some cases, the department is also offering new classes in previously unexplored areas. In spring 2016, a class on arabic calligraphy will be taught for the first time at Wellesley.
McGibbon is hopeful that the changes will be successful in giving Wellesley more state-of-the-art facilities for the departments in Pendleton West. Although the Pendleton West renovations are proceeding according to plan, the Munger renovations have been pushed back a year, enabling students to live there this year.
“The precipitating factor was that the Town of Wellesley informed the College this past fall that in their view, the size of the project triggered a Project of Significant Impact approval process by the Town, a much more onerous regulatory hurdle than the College was expecting. In light of the required schedule change, we felt it was prudent to slow down the Munger project so that we could complete this planning exercise,” Hammond said. He noted that the administration also viewed the Munger renovations as a part of the larger Campus Renewal plan.
Hammond, who also chairs the College’s Campus Facilities Planning Committee, explained that while the original Campus Renewal plan, consolidated in Fall 2013, intends for the current five dining halls to be reduced to three or four, no decisions have been made on how to best achieve this goal. It should be noted that the consolidated plan has provisions for a Munger dining hall and improvements to the Bates and Tower dining halls. Nothing was mentioned in the plan about what, if anything, will be done to the Stone-Davis and Lulu Chow Wang dining halls.
When asked how the Wellesley community could prepare for and facilitate the Campus Renewal changes, Dean of Students Debra DeMeis noted that the college plans to release a series of focus groups, questionnaires and open fora to better engage the student body. Hammond pointed interested students to The Dirt, the campus renewal website, and other resources.
“The project teams want to hear from those who will be affected or have views to share, and we continue to work to strengthen communications about campus renewal and each individual project,” Hammond said, adding that the Wellesley College administration periodically shares information to the community through Academic Council, College Government Senate and Administrative Council. He also recommends that concerned students, faculty and staff contact the client leads named on the campus renovation website and Hammond via email.
Photo by Bianca Pichamuthu ’16, Photography Editor
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