On September 27, members of Sarah Lawrence College’s administration held a town hall for students to learn more about the proposed Barbara Walters Campus Center project and to voice concerns and suggestions. The panel leading the town hall also included two representatives from KSS Architects, the architectural firm that’s been hired for the project.
Planning for the campus center began in the winter of 2015, after Barbara Walters made her $15 million to the school. If all goes well, the school is hoping to begin construction in the fall of 2017 and complete the project by the fall of 2019. The total cost of the project is $35 million, which is funded by donors, such as Barbara Walters.
At this moment, most of the plans for the campus center are still to be determined. Right now the project is still in the pre-schematic stage, which means that KSS is still determining even the most general details of the project. When the project reaches the full schematic stage later this fall, they will be able to present to students what the campus center will most likely look like.
"There's a lot left to be designed. That's what makes these town halls so important,” said Danny Trujillo, dean of studies and student life.
One of the few things that has been determined is the location of the building, which will most likely be the corner of Kimball and Glenn Washington. The school has hired a civil engineer to help figure out how parking will be affected and will consult with representatives from the city planner’s office to finalize the location.
Another aspect of the building that has been determined is that Walter’s archives, which she donated when she donated the money for the campus center, will have a place in the building.
According to the panel members, town halls like the one on Sept. 27 are very important to the planning of the project. KSS is hoping to test out every aspect of the building, from the materials used to the furniture, on the student body to ensure that the campus center fits Sarah Lawrence’s needs.
"How people belong to the space is very important [to us]," KSS representative, Pam Rew said.
The ideas they are currently basing the project on were received from a poll they conducted of 500 Sarah Lawrence students last year. At the town hall there was a powerpoint prepared that listed the goals for the campus center, an organizational chart of where ideas for the project are coming from, and a word collage that shows all the values the 500 polled students and the focus groups feel the campus center should have.
Some of the goals listed in the powerpoint were that the campus center would become “a magnet for intellectual, cultural, and social life for the campus community that will help to distinguish the geographic center of the campus” and that it would be “a front door to the college, opening its cultural vitality to our neighboring communities and the public at large.”
KSS is also using several focus groups ― consisting of alumni, members of the community and students ― to come up with more specific ideas. They are hoping to take these ideas as they become more solid and present them to an even larger group of students in a second poll sometime this year.
Some of the facilities the administration is hoping to include in the campus center is a large multi-purpose space, some kind of dining option, and many places for students to interact socially. The planned dining option will not be designed to replace Bates, but will replace the Pub. What will be done with the space currently holding the Pub is still yet to be decided.
The administration is also considering moving some other facilities, such as the Blue Room and the radio station, into the campus center as well. As they are still unsure if they are moving those facilities at all, they are not sure what will be done with them. But one option they are considering is to let the science program expand into those spaces as the program is quickly outgrowing its current home.
The administration is planning for the multi-purpose space to allow the college to have larger informal and formal engagements. The goal is for it to be a place where the college can hold events like Admitted Students Day, but most likely will not be the location for Commencement as it draws more people than the campus center will likely be able to hold.
"[The campus center] is meant for everyone on campus and anyone from the community who will come to the campus for various cultural events,” said Karen Lawrence, president of the college.
The areas for students to interact socially ― suggestions included an impromptu performance space, a game room, and a TV lounge ― will most likely take up the remaining space in the campus center. The administration hopes that by concentrating on these student spaces, it will allow the campus center to become a place that twenty years from now people won’t be able to imagine Sarah Lawrence without.
Emma Garcia '20