Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

Perspective: Designing Our Future

By Dean Joseph J. Helble

As the 2013–14 academic year, with its record number of engineering A.B. degree recipients, drew to a close in June, planning began for the next phase in Thayer’s history. With Cummings Hall and MacLean Engineering Sciences Center at capacity, engineering enrollments at record levels and continuing to rise, and ambitious plans on the table for an expanded role for engineering at Dartmouth, it was time to explore the feasibility of adding a new Thayer building to the west end of the Dartmouth campus.

Wilson Architects, a Boston-based firm with a long history of architectural design of university engineering and science facilities, was selected in June as our partner in a six-month basis-of-design study that is now fully underway. Working with Wilson and Dartmouth’s Office of Campus Planning and Facilities is a steering committee chaired by Senior Associate Dean Ian Baker and including faculty, staff, student, and alumni/Board of Overseers members.* Their charge is simple, but the challenge is not: to understand our vision for an expanded Thayer (including a significantly larger faculty), gather input from the Thayer community, and envision the space that will be needed to support that vision when it is fully realized a decade from now. And they have been asked to do all of this while preserving the interdisciplinary character of the school and maintaining the sense of community, shared purpose, and mission that have defined Dartmouth engineering for nearly 150 years.

To gather the input of the Thayer community, steering committee members have met with focus groups of faculty and staff, conducted electronic surveys of staff and current students, solicited suggestions through an old-fashioned suggestion box located in the GlycoFi Atrium, surveyed three recent classes of alumni, held a Friday afternoon design charrette run by students for students, and solicited input from the Board of Overseers during its October meeting. These conversations elicited many ideas—for open-concept laboratories, design studios, classrooms (with a great deal of conversation about what “classroom” will even mean in a decade or two), conference rooms, common spaces, social spaces, green space, open space, light, food, coffee, and, of course, parking. Given our desire—our requirement—that any new building be intimately connected with the current Thayer campus yet preserve the flowing architecture of Cummings and MacLean, we are focusing on options to the south, southeast, and west of our current buildings as we explore feasibility over the next several months.

By mid-winter, when the basis-of-design study is completed, we will have renderings that show in more vivid detail the potential location and scope of our new building. Final architectural design and start of construction will, of course, depend upon progress in fundraising, but our ambition is to have a clear path identified by our 150th anniversary just a few short years from now. Stay tuned!


* Steering Committee Members:

Categories: Perspective

Tags: facilities

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