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Amherst College > News & Events > Amherst Magazine > Archives > Spring 2005 > College Row
College Row
Buildings under construction, lit at night
Round-the-clock construction illumination makes the new James and Stearns dormitories glow like campus night lights.

The hammers of summer

Under the construction shrouds that cover a number of campus buildings, work is nearing completion on the final phase of the Residential Master Plan—a wide-ranging renovation and construction project that will provide Amherst students with enhanced and updated housing by 2007. Over the summer, several of these projects will be finished.

Crews working on the canvas-covered Geology Building to the east of Fayerweather Hall have now completed the major interior elements, including walls, windows and utilities, and they are applying the brick and terra cotta exterior. This work is being funded in part by a $150,000 grant the college received in December from the George I. Alden Trust. The award also will generate additional support through an RMP challenge fund previously established by Amherst’s Board of Trustees. About two-thirds of the new building’s 55,800 square feet will provide academic space and state-of-the-art teaching laboratories; the remainder will house the college’s Natural History Museum. The building will be ready for occupancy in January 2006, but the museum may open a little later because of the complexity of moving and installing the large number of exhibits. Workers have already begun the delicate process of preparing the natural history collection for the move.

The new James and Stearns dormitories are keeping pace with the Geology Building and are also nearly complete. Crews have completed interior walls, windows and climate systems and are applying the exterior and interior finishes. The dorms will open in September 2005.

As the dust settles around James and Stearns, a comprehensive renovation of Morris Pratt and Morrow dormitories will begin. Once again, workers will lay new roofs and put in new windows and install modern mechanical systems. Director of Facilities Planning and Management James Brassord says that in addition to these improvements, workers will reconfigure the interior floor plan of Morris Pratt. “It has a complicated maze of hallways,” he says, “so we’re looking for a floor plan that flows better and creates what we’re calling a ‘corridor culture.’” Work on both buildings will begin June 1, 2005 and is scheduled to be completed by August 2006.

The final element of the RMP’s first phase, the conversion of the Charles Pratt building to a dormitory, will begin as soon as the natural history collection and Geology Department have moved to their new quarters in winter 2006. Architectural plans are not yet final, but preliminary sketches provide a sense of the overall layout. Dormitory rooms will ring the building’s perimeter, with open hallways facing a central, two-story open area. At the top of that open space, a false ceiling will be removed to expose the building’s elaborate wooden truss work and a skylight that was part of the original design. The plan also calls for the original building’s 1903 addition to be replaced with a new section better suited to dormitory functions. Brassord says that the final plans will be finished and ready for contracting by spring 2006. When the work is finished in the fall of 2007, Charles Pratt will be the largest dormitory on campus, housing 122 first-year students.

Next: Professor Antonio Benítez-Rojo >>

Photo: Frank Ward

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