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Greg Wyatt '71
   

AROUND THE QUADS
A New Look for Hamilton Hall

By Shira J. Boss '93


Architect's rendering of the proposed entrance to the Admissions suite in Hamilton Hall from College Walk
PHOTO COURTESY R.M. KLIMENT & FRANCES HALSBAND ARCHITECTS

 
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New construction and renovations that have been improving facilities on the Morningside Heights campus will engulf Hamilton Hall next. The familiar red-brick exterior will largely remain the same, with the addition of a second entrance leading directly into the new Admissions Office. But classrooms will be overhauled and modernized for 21st century technology, offices will be renovated - including the creation of a new center for the Core Curriculum on the main floor - and the lobby will be redone.

"Hamilton Hall is the centerpiece of the College," says Dean Austin Quigley. "We plan to take the lobby and convert it into a display area for the history of the College and the Core."

The project began with the remodeling of two test classrooms last summer. Based on the evaluations of those rooms by faculty, students and administrators, plans call for the renovation of six more classrooms this summer. Work on plumbing, ventilation and electrical capacity began in January, and renovation of the main floor and the first floor will begin this spring. The project will continue in phases through at least 2004. "Some of what we're doing is uncovering the original intention of McKim, Mead & White and restoring some of the grandly conceived spaces," says Frances Halsband of R.M. Kliment & Frances Halsband Architects. The other piece, she says, is upgrading it to the level of a 21st century college.

Hamilton was built in 1905 at a cost of $500,000 and from the start housed the undergraduate college offices and classrooms.

"When it was built, it was a great and noble home for the College, with grand spaces and libraries and classrooms above," says Halsband. "In its original state, it had a two-story library where the men of the College would gather and read, and enormous student lounges in the basement." Today's third floor was added in the 1950s and sliced that open library space in half; the lobby was redesigned in the 1950s and 1960s.

Hamilton still houses a third of undergraduate classrooms, and part of the $14 million renovation budget comes from a larger classroom renovation project.

"It's such a significant teaching environment, and there's such an emphasis on academic spaces in this [2000-2004] capital plan, rather than the student spaces - like the residence halls and Lerner - that were the focus of the last five-year plan," says Mark Burstein, vice president of facilities management.

The building will be in continuous use during renovation, so the work is taking place in stages and the timeline is flexible. The work will cosmetically improve the interior and modernize the infrastructure.

"What we see with buildings built at the beginning of the [last] century is that they're wonderfully intact because they were built so well," says Sean Joyner, director of programs for design and construction. "They have good bones. We're putting in new lungs and central nervous system."

Two model classrooms - a seminar room and a lecture room - were completed last summer. Room 402, the seminar room, was specifically designed with Core classes in mind. It has carpeting and concealed wiring, with wood paneling added to the lower part of the walls to frame the windows and old-fashioned slate blackboard. Substantial wood chairs surround a heavy wood seminar table.

"We would like to add as much wood as we can afford, even more than originally existed," Joyner says.

Direct and indirect overhead lighting with dimmers gives the room a modern look, while the traditional wood creates an old-Ivy atmosphere.

Room 507, the lecture room, also has improved lighting and wood accents, with individual wood desks and a smooth, checkered floor.


Architect's cutaway view of the main floor of a rebovated Hamilton Hall.
PHOTO COURTESY R.M. KLIMENT & FRANCES HALSBAND ARCHITECTS

Hamilton's renovation is part of a broader project around South Field that includes renovating Butler Library, revitalizing the Van Am Quad and re-aligning the walkway in front of Hamilton where historic gates from the midtown campus will be installed.

"It's about creating a symbolic center for the College on South Field," says Quigley.

A major piece of the renovation will be moving the Core Curriculum headquarters from an administrative office on the fourth floor to an extended suite on the first floor that the admissions office had outgrown. Admissions, meanwhile, will move to a duplex space on the other side of the building, where the Office of Student Affairs and the Financial Aid office (now in Lerner) used to be. "The Core to the right and admissions to the left [as you enter Hamilton Hall] is really what the College is about," Burstein says.

The Core center is expected to include a library with general education books and background materials, a seminar room for the approximately 50 Core teachers to come together for their weekly meeting, and a room for developing online resources.

"It's important to give the Core a space that students and faculty will be attracted to and where they'll be able to think about how they learn and teach," says Kathryn Yatrakis, dean of academic affairs.

Dedicating such a space to the Core Curriculum is expected to encourage more interaction among the faculty and cross-usage of their teaching materials, especially in Literature Humanities, Contemporary Civilization, and Art and Music Humanities. "It's developing the Core as a set of related courses rather than juxtaposed courses," Quigley says.

Plans for the lobby have not been finalized, but Halsband says that after the architects looked at several ideas for changes, they concluded that the original plans are still the best ones. Traffic will be redirected and, as in Butler Library, modern lighting will be installed in fixtures that resemble the originals.

"We're trying to bring out the original character of the building," Joyner says, explaining that the architects will spend a lot of time in Columbiana archives and at the New-York Historical Society studying the original McKim, Mead & White drawings for the building.

"When we finish," says Halsband, "we hope it will have the best of the old and the best of the new."

Related Stories
 

• A New Look for Hamilton Hall
Four Alumni to Receive John Jay Awards on March 7
1950-51 Men's Basketball Team Honored
Arac Chosen to Head English Department
Roar, Lion, Roar
Rothschild Scholarship
Campus Bulletins
Alumni Bulletins
Transitions
In Lumine Tuo
In Memoriam

 

 

 
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