HMC Breaks Ground on New Teaching and Learning Building

Harvey Mudd College (HMC) hosted a groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 1 for its new Teaching and Learning Building. The building was designed to accommodate new teaching styles and further innovations in mathematics and the sciences.

HMC President Maria Klawe presided over the ceremony, while Trustee Wayne Drinkward HM ’73, President of the Alumni Association Board of Governors John Lulejian HM ’90, Professor of Chemistry Kerry Karrukstis, and student leader Margaret Brier HM ’12 gave speeches.

Chemistry professor and Associate Dean of Administration Gerald Van Hecke HM ’61, who also spoke at the event, expressed excitement at the landmark occasion.

“The groundbreaking ceremony was very nice. We haven’t had a groundbreaking for an academic building since 1993,” he said. “We’ve built dorms and such but this is the first academic building we’ve broken ground for in a while.”

The 70,000 square-foot building, constructed at a cost of $43 million, will occupy the space previously held by Thomas-Garrett Hall. The HMC Board of Trustees made the decision to move forward with the construction of the building at a meeting on Jan. 29. According to the school’s website, the building “will double HMC’s total teaching and learning space and provide much-needed performance venues and dedicated writing and multimedia centers.”

Van Hecke said the building is unique because it features spaces that provide for new styles of teaching.

“It’s quite exciting because of all the new space and flexibility [the building] provides,” he said. “Today’s teaching styles often do not call for just standing at blackboards and teaching to the students.”

The building features 20 new faculty offices that will give professors more workspace, as well as larger classrooms. Its size and technological advances also render it suitable for more intense lab work. The facility also makes use of an outdoor classroom and a recital hall for musical performances, accommodations that previously did not exist on HMC’s campus.

The building qualifies for LEED Gold certification thanks to energy-efficient features like shading that will limit reliance on air conditioning. One of the new building’s most prominent sustainability features is its BubbleDeck structural system, which is designed to minimize the usage of resources required for construction. The system replaces concrete that would ordinarily support the building’s frame with hollow plastic bubbles. The resulting reduction in mass lessens the need for steel girders, which produces a model that is both cost-efficient and eco-friendly. The structure is on the cusp of LEED Platinum certification, the highest possible distinction, but its ability to achieve it won’t be known until construction is fully underway.

HMC President Klawe said the building’s aesthetics would reflect the general architectural themes of the college while still conveying an image of progress and modernity, a feat she believed the school’s dining hall had already accomplished.

“Hoch-Shanahan [Dining Commons] is a good example of a building that’s a little bit different from the other buildings on the outside, but it really looks like it fits in,” she said. “Our goal was to do something that would be as much past Hoch-Shanahan as Hoch-Shanahan was past the other buildings.”

Construction on the new building is slated to be completed by the 2013-2014 academic year, which Klawe joked had inspired envy in the college’s juniors and seniors. She stressed that the academic building reflected larger trends in HMC’s development as an institution. Increasing diversity and interaction with the community are trends she believes are reflected in the building’s construction.

“It’s a very symbolic building, in addition to just what it’s actually going to do,” Klawe said. “When we were voting on going forward with it and the trustees were deciding on it, they talked about it being a dream, it being a vision, it being a statement about the future.”

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