Harvey Mudd Plans New Teaching & Learning Center

The Harvey Mudd College Board of Trustees recently voted to proceed with construction plans for a new teaching and learning building that it hopes will become the new “focal point” of HMC’s campus. Construction will begin this summer and is expected to be completed by spring 2013. The building, which will house classrooms and academic offices, will be highly sustainable and will replace Thomas-Garrett Hall, which was constructed in 1960.

Chris Sundberg, HMC Associate Dean of Students and Dean of Campus Life, said that the new building was proposed because HMC’s campus needs something new.

“There hasn’t been a real love by the faculty for the [Thomas-Garrett] building; they’ve been avoiding it,” he said. “It’s just behind the times [and] it’s not a really good space to teach in, especially when it comes to [audio-visual] stuff, so faculty will probably be flocking over to the new building, which will make it an academic center. We have to get up to speed here.”

The Board of Trustees voted Jan. 29 to proceed with construction plans and to partially fund the construction by issuing a bond. The college has not yet raised all of the projected $43 million cost of the building, but it will continue to look for donors.

“The thing holding them back was funding, but some people thought if we didn’t get it going it would never the off the ground,” said Michelle Hansen HMC ‘11, student representative to the Board of Trustees Physical Plant and Campus Planning Committee (BOT PPCPC). According to Hansen, now that at least some of the funding has been raised, construction can begin.

“They’re going to break ground this summer,” she said. “The dates haven’t been decided yet, but they’re looking toward alumni donations and maybe doing an extra campaign, and there have been a few fund-raising ideas like [charging students to help] tear down part of Thomas-Garrett or selling the warts from the buildings.”

Hansen said she thought the new building could have a big effect on campus life at HMC.

“I think it will change student life a lot,” she said. “[Several] classrooms and lecture halls are going to be in this one building, as well as a writing center, tutoring resources, a coffee shop and a new performance space. I think there is going to be a lot more activity coming out of that one building and everyone will have class there so it will mean more student interaction.”

According to Michael Edwards, HMC Campus Life Coordinator, the new building is the first of several projects the Board of Trustees is looking at in its Master Plan.

“One of the first steps in Harvey’s Mudd’s 10-20 year plan is getting this building done and then moving on to new dorms and other things,” he said, adding that the college is happy with the current size of the student body and that these projects are intended as improvements rather than expansions.

The building is being designed by Portland-based Boora Architects, which also designed the Music Building & Performing Arts Center at Scripps College and the Mondavi Center for the Arts at UC Davis. According to Boora, the new HMC building will earn LEED Platinum Certification by incorporating a wide variety of sustainable architecture techniques, including the use of only renewable and durable construction materials, systems for storm water filtering and reuse, natural ventilation, and rooftop photo-voltaic (PV) panels.

Along with academic offices, the new building will also include public areas and a 300-person auditorium, and it will double the amount of teaching and learning facilities at HMC. It will also feature 70,000 square feet of “flexible space” to allow teachers to offer a more informal learning environment and increase faculty-student interaction.

Sundberg said that the new building also will fix the school’s lack of an obvious entrance. Part of the plan is to extend the building past Thomas-Garrett’s current foundation to Foothill Blvd., and also to construct a more noticeable entrance along the street.

“Right now you kind of walk on campus and say, ‘OK, I guess I’m here,” Sundberg said. “I think by ‘focal point,’ it means they’re trying to make it more apparent if you’re driving down Foothill to see that this is Harvey Mudd: you’re here.”

Hansen said that last year she was able to be part of the planning process when she took a class relating to building design. She went to meetings during the design review process and got to share her opinion with the architects from Boora.

“I got to give my opinion on the building and ask a whole bunch of questions, and they actually revised their ideas based on the feedback they were getting,” she said.

Thanks to student and faculty input, Hansen said, “There is going to be one outdoor classroom on the fourth story and a lot of professors got to decide together what they want to do there, and we made changes in the lecture hall and in the shapes of different rooms.”

Although these comment periods were open to the entire student body, Hansen said only a few HMC students, along with several professors, ever attended.

Edwards said that he has talked to a few students informally about the new building.

“[The students are] all excited about it and want it to happen,” he said. “They’ve been hearing about it for so long they just want to see it get done and see the other building get torn down. I think we could save a lot of costs on demolition if we just got a lot of sledgehammers and waivers and let them go have fun.”

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