Article Image
Zara Castany / Senior Staff Photographer

Barnard COO Greg Brown said Lehman Hall might have floors added to it—or it might be torn down.

Barnard is gearing up for a major campus renovation that could involve adding floors to Lehman Hall—or tearing it down. Just two years after the opening of the Diana Center, administrators are planning substantial changes for Barnard's three main buildings: Barnard Hall, Milbank Hall, and Lehman. According to Barnard Chief Operating Officer Greg Brown, these buildings have not been structurally renovated since they were built, and administrators think that they need to be upgraded so that Barnard can make the best possible use of its academic space. Earlier this month, 10 architecture firms submitted proposals for renovating the three buildings. Brown said that there are three main options on the table: improving the teaching and learning spaces in the three buildings while maintaining their current square footage; adding floors to Lehman Hall; and "doing the wild thing and taking down Lehman and starting over again." Brown said that administrators are examining how the buildings are currently used, and how, in their current condition, they will serve the college for the next 10 to 20 years. Over the next few months, administrators will review the architecture firms' proposals and establish a steering committee of faculty and students that will be involved in interviewing the firms. "This is one of those key issues where if only non-students plan it, it's probably not going to work well in the long run," Brown said. "It's going to be really crucial to have student input." Brown anticipates that construction won't begin for at least two or three years. Milbank was built in 1896, and Barnard Hall was built in 1916. Technological improvements have been made to the buildings over the years, but Brown said that technology from a decade ago is already obsolete. "The way technology was 10 years ago is very different from what it is now. And how you use technology in the classroom is very different now than it was 10 years ago," Brown said. "We really need to stay current with that, so that's a big part of this project." A significant piece of the construction project will be the redesign of Lehman, which houses several classrooms, faculty offices, and Wollman Library. Lehman opened in 1959. "That was probably good in 1959 for the way students studied," Brown said. "It's not good in 2012." For instance, many students no longer use the library for its original purpose—checking out books. Andrea Barrientos, BC '14, said that she goes to Wollman weekly to use the computers and printers but hasn't checked out a book all year. "I use the library primarily for its technological resources," Barrientos said. "I wish there were more computers because there's a rush hour in the morning." Many students study in Wollman, but Brown noted that the Diana Center's second floor café and Lewis Parlor in Brooks Hall are more popular study spaces than the library. Jenny Senior, BC '14, said that last week was her first time going to Wollman, except for when she toured the library with her first-year English class. "I just need to print something because the Diana's printers are broken," Senior said, adding that she prefers to study in the Diana because it's brighter than Wollman. Elizabeth Ferzacca, BC '13, works at the library's media services department, but she only studies at Wollman during finals week. But even though she doesn't use the library very often, she likes it the way it is. "I don't see any reason to improve it," she said. "This space is good." In 2001, Barnard conducted a space study that became the impetus to build the Diana. The Diana met the college's need for more student activity spaces and performing arts spaces, Brown said. The building opened in 2010, allowing Barnard to do some significant reorganization. Last summer, the college built a new dance studio on the third floor of Barnard Hall—in space that was previously occupied by the architecture and art departments, which moved to the Diana—and new conference and seminar rooms were constructed on the second floor of Barnard Hall. Chemistry labs in Altschul Hall were also completely redone. But administrators always knew the Diana wouldn't be enough, Brown said. "We identified things that we absolutely had to do to meet those present needs," Brown said. "We knew that down the road we were still going to have some challenges." Brown isn't sure how much the project is going to cost. The Diana Center cost about $70 million, so Brown estimated that the new project could cost upwards of tens of millions of dollars, depending on which plan administrators choose. Another reason that Barnard is pushing to renovate its campus right now, Brown added, is because administrators are preparing to launch a new capital campaign. "By having plans in front of donors, it's a lot easier to raise money when you say, 'Here's our exciting vision of where we're going,'" Brown said. "By doing this work we expect that we're going to attract some key donors." Sarah Phillips, BC '15, said she is glad students will be consulted on the new renovations. But she isn't sure that students will have the expertise to improve the planning process. "I think if the students know what to do, it can be a great thing," she said. "But I don't know if students know the information they'd need to tell the administration." The three buildings that are going to be renovated are longtime fixtures on Barnard's campus, and Brown said that their outward appearance probably will not change. "My assumption is because these are historic buildings and they're kind of iconic to the campus that the outside of those buildings is not going to change," Brown said. "What happens inside, I think, needs to change." Phillips said that while she is excited to see a more state-of-the-art campus, she is glad that Barnard will still look the same. "Our campus is really beautiful already," Phillips said. "So if they can keep the beauty of the campus, then I'm all for progress."

renovation Milbank Libraries Lehman Greg Brown Barnard
From Around the Web