February 6, 2002

Architect Introduces Plan for West Campus Housing Initiative to Undergraduate Forum

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A representative from the Philadelphia architectural firm designing the West Campus Housing Initiative presented detailed plans for the residential area’s development to an undergraduate student forum yesterday afternoon.

The Presentation

A group of about 25 students gathered in Clarke Hall as architect Amy Vloresta introduced the future layout of West Campus recently approved by the Cornell Board of Trustees.

The development plan, which will be executed and completed by the end of 2010, calls for the demolition of all West Campus class halls as well as Noyes Community Center followed by the erection of five new residential houses and a new community recreational center.

Vloresta’s presentation began with an analysis of West Campus that included an examination of Cornell topography. Major concerns of the layout plan were addressed, including an enjoyable pedestrian experience, the maintenance of the area’s East-West orientation, and the creation a housing plan that will integrate well with the remaining gothic dormitories and the surrounding fraternity housing. Referring to the gothic dorms as an “integral part of the West Campus plan,” Vloresta indicated that much of the development initiative will involve structural integration with these dormitories.

My Beloved Dorm

Acknowledging that the West Campus gothic dormitories are “iconographic [and] beloved,” Vloresta said, “We hope that in 100 years people will regard the [new] West Campus with the same belovedness.”

The presentation also included a plan for the gothic dormitories, in which two of the five residential houses will be physically added to the dormitories. Photographs in the presentation displayed a typical house layout. Each house, capable of housing 350 students, includes residential suites and many common areas such as a dining hall, a seminar room, a music rehearsal room, kitchens and lounges.

Vloresta also briefly explained the multiple phases of the new West Campus construction that must maintain a quota of 1,635 beds on West Campus at all times. The phases involve the sequential demolition of the class halls and subsequent construction of the new residential houses.

Noyes will be demolished in the latter phases of the building plan after three new dining halls have been established in the new facilities. It will eventually be replaced by the West Campus Community Recreation Center (CRC).

The physical transformations that West Campus will undergo in the future reflect a philosophical transformation in the university’s approach to upperclassman residency options.

Edna Dugan, Assistant Vice President for Student and Academic Services and West Campus Council Co-Chair, introduced Vloresta and reiterated the purpose of and goals for the West Campus housing initiative. According to an informational brochure, the West Campus Initiative seeks to create a living environment conducive to intellectual growth, self-government and social and cultural programming opportunities.

According to Isaac Kramnick, vice provost and West Campus Council co-chair, the housing community will not only include undergraduate residents but also live-in faculty House Heads and graduate student advisors that will replace undergraduate resident advisors. The faculty House Head will function as a house professor (or dean) and will chair the residential house council, responsible for student programming. Each house will also have about 30 faculty affiliates who will maintain a relationship with the house and visit it on occasion. Through the involvement of faculty members and graduate students , developers of the program hope to foster the assimilation of the West Campus students’ residential and academic life.

“We have indications that many students will want to live in this type of house. [These students] want to integrate their intellectual and cultural life with their residential life,” Kramnick said.

While student members of the student forum seemed intrigued by this new approach to upperclassman housing, many voiced their worries regarding the layout of the houses. Various student opinions during the question and answer period of the forum, expressed concern that the suite-style plan will deter rather than foster casual resident interaction. Other voiced concerns included the elimination of about 250 parking spots and the close proximity of the new residential houses to many West Campus fraternities.

While no immediate changes could be made to the developmental plan as a result of these student anxieties, Dugan and Jean Reese, Project Leader for the Initiative, stated that these concerns would be noted by relevant committees.

“All of these concerns are distributed to the West Campus Council Committee and to the West Campus Facilities Planning Group,” Reese said.

Bryan Rosenthal ’05, a member of the focus group, seemed pleased with the West Campus committee’s interest in student feedback. “They’ve done a good job of presenting the facts to the students and listening to our reactions. They seem to be interested in our opinions on the development of West Campus,” he said.

Finding few faults with the architectural proposal, Rosenthal added, “They’ve come up with a good plan of making West Campus conducive [to the wants] of upperclassmen.”

While there has been discussion regarding the transformation of West Campus for over 30 years, specific courses of action were not discussed until 1997 when the North Campus Initiative (which moved all freshman residents to North Campus in 2001) was put into action.

Excited by the implementation of such a monumental transformation, Kramnick said, “It’s an exciting new chapter in the history of Cornell and a wonderful opportunity for some undergraduates. [The housing program] provides a wonderful new option for undergraduate living.”

West Campus dormitory destruction and housing construction should begin in 2003.


Archived article by Ellen Miller