Can You Dig It?

Heavy equipment cracking pavement, hauling earth, and pouring concrete rocked summer’s usual tranquillity as construction began in June on the first project proposed by the campus facilities master plan: the new residences near Mount David.

At the same time, but with less ruckus, workers started transforming Coram Library’s interior into the College’s new Imaging and Computing Center, opening in January.  Finally, over Parents & Family Weekend, Bates broke ground for a second project on the master plan list, the much-anticipated Dining Commons and cross-campus Bates Walk.

The residential facility — a three-section hall and a plaza, adjacent to the present 1905 Rand Hall and designed by the firm Shepley Bulfinch Richardson and Abbott — moved fast. By Convocation, foundations had been poured, steam and other utility lines had been laid across College Street, and a service road and massive retaining wall were in place behind old Rand.  All this despite having to investigate abandoned pipes that weren’t on anyone’s charts. “When you’re digging on a campus as old as Bates, you’re going to find some unknown conditions,” says Pam Wichroski, associate director of Facility Services for capital projects.

But teamwork and careful contingency planning, she adds, kept the project on schedule. By Christmas, the shell of the new structure will likely be complete.
With Commons scheduled to open in January 2008, project manager Paul Farnsworth predicted that this winter would see foundations done and structural steel rising.  Designed by Sasaki Associates Inc., the facility will sit near Central Avenue between Garcelon Field and Alumni Gym. The Garcelon track and the last of the old tennis courts beside the gym will disappear. The Bates Walk, connecting the new residences with the new Commons, will entail substantial utilities work before finish landscaping can begin.

The Imaging and Computing Center will house myriad high-tech resources for handling visual data, ranging from microscopic views of nanostructures to large-scale digital art photographs. Because visual information is integral to so many disciplines, building a single imaging center is a powerful way to advance interdisciplinary collaboration, says the center’s director, chemist Matt Côté.

A colorful lounge area, complete with coffee service, will encourage students and faculty in diverse disciplines to hang out, swap ideas, and show off their projects, Wichroski adds. And a snazzy wall of flat-panel video monitors will reveal works in progress. “That display wall will open your eyes about what other people are doing in there,” she says. “It should be pretty exciting.”