Not So NEW College – The Space Committee

The New College campus includes a surprisingly large sprawl of over 60 buildings scattered between east and west campus. How to best use these buildings has been a forefront in the minds of administrators for decades, with frequent changes as the needs of the campus have changed over the years. An end-of-the-year report from the Joint Space Committee published in June 1988 detailed a number of suggestions, issues and priorities regarding managing space on the New College campus and offer some insight into the decisions that led to the modern New College landscape.

“The specialized character of the New College program, with its stress on individualized instruction and undergraduate research, requires more ample space and more sophisticated facilities than most undergraduate programs,” the report states in its introduction. “Moreover, we have a special responsibility to preserve and enhance an unusually attractive natural setting.”

A list of general principles follows the introduction which include such priorities as “The library will always be the natural center of the campus for both the university and college programs,” and “Classrooms, library, administrative and student-service offices will always be used jointly … but each program should also have clearly defined centers on campus.”

Various principles address maintaining a certain aesthetic, such as a principle that states no building should be more than two, possibly three stories, in order to not mar the skyline, and buildings should be clustered together in order to maximize open spaces, and parking lots should be clustered at the borders of campus and avoid entering the spaces. The principles end with “students must have bicycle access to all parts of the campus, including Caples campus across the museum property.”

The report delineates a section called the New College Village, which stretches from the social science building to Hanson, the former Natural Sciences building. It lists a total of 24 classrooms according to the business office, of which “only 10 … are good general classrooms without problems, i.e. handicapped accessible and not scheduled for elimination.”

“There will be a classroom shortage,” the report warns, “especially since several rooms are scheduled and many are substandard. We are facing a significant shortage of classrooms within the next few years.” The struggle of accommodating 800 students, which the college had already grown to, drove much of the planning for the following decades.

The “serious planning” the committee proposed to “remedy the situation” included upgrading the five classrooms in College Hall to be soundproof, canceling plans to convert Palmer C into a dorm so that it could be used for more classrooms, plans to convert Palmer B into classrooms and offices should be implemented as soon as possible, Palmer D and E should have classrooms added as soon as administration move out of the buildings, and plans to construct new buildings beside Hamilton should be implemented as soon as possible.

27 years later the college has managed to expand facilities, but very little of the expansion occurred according to 1988 plans. Palmer B is the one dormitory on the west side of campus and all the other Palmer buildings remain in administrative hands. The barn has since been converted into the Four Winds cafe, Hanson building was demolished and replaced with Heiser and Hamilton has almost completely been converted to administrative spaces for Student Affairs, with only two classrooms remaining there. ACE building was constructed to house Humanities offices and classrooms, and College Hall’s function as a space for classrooms has been drastically scaled back to a single classroom and a couple of professor’s offices.

The growth of the school is an important goal, but history shows that very little growth will follow the master plan.


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