Currently browsing posts filed under "Buildings"

Follow this category via RSS

Next Page →

Hollander Hall Live Cam

Seems to update every few minutes. Just hit refresh.

In a few years (how many?), Williams could sprinkle dozens of cameras all around campus, each streaming live, high definition video on to the web. Will it? Should it?


An Obvious Proposal: Make Weston Residential

I read with delight that the OCC is moving from Weston and integrating with the Alumni Office.  This makes sense in and of itself (and probably warrants a post of its own), but the bigger benefit, in my view, is reopening Weston to its natural and proper use: upper class housing.   In the article discussing the future of Weston, there was no mention of turning it into housing.  Failure to do so* would be, simply, an enormous mistake for the following reasons:

  • It just makes sense, from a campus planning perspective, to have an uninterrupted row of residential row houses.  These houses represent the heart of senior (and on weekends, campus social) life.  For decades, Weston has been the outlier, remaining dark on weekends while its neighbors are teeming with life.  Why keep it as such?
  • Williams has gradually and slowly increased its enrollment in recent years, with entering classes moving from around 529 to around 550.  Over four years, that is an extra 84 people on campus (or, say, 70, accounting for study abroad and attrition).  Yet, not only has Williams not built additional housing, it has actually eliminated a few coops, and about 12 years ago it turned Bascom, which used to be the single best dorm on campus, into the Admissions Office.  What does that mean?  Fewer seniors getting prime rooms, more sophomores in doubles, and less common space in campus dorms.  Turning Weston into housing would alleviate all of those issues.

More thoughts below the break Read more


News on the Sawyer Library Project

To the Williams Community,

That loud cracking sound you may have heard over the weekend marked a longed-for thaw of the freeze on major campus construction.

Encouraged by the great educational opportunities afforded by the proposed new Sawyer Library, by the readiness of the construction plans, and by generous pledges in recent months that bring total philanthropic support for the new library to more than half of its $80 million cost, the Board of Trustees has approved my recommendation that work on the new Sawyer begin at the start of the construction season this spring.

Part of the larger Stetson-Sawyer Project, which included Hollander and Schapiro Halls, the library was put on hold when the global financial crisis hit two years ago. We will now be able to provide for the arts, humanities, and social sciences the kinds of wonderfully effective teaching and learning spaces that Schow Library affords the sciences and math. Drawings and floor plans for the project can be viewed at .

The schedule anticipates opening the new Sawyer Library, to be attached to a renovated Stetson Hall, in 2014. This will be followed by the razing of the current library building and the construction in its place of a new green space that will connect Stetson/Sawyer with the Paresky Center and the Frosh Quad.

Our thanks go to the many people, led for years by Professor of Anthropology Michael Brown and College Librarian Dave Pilachowski, whose meticulous work produced such an exciting project, and to the faculty, staff, and students who have patiently endured a postponement that had been of indefinite length until this moment. And, of course, the deep gratitude of us all goes to our donors, a number of whom wish to remain anonymous at this time, for their great generosity and for their commitment to this project and this college.

The other project postponed by the recession has been the renovation of Weston Field, which is now being thoroughly reexamined to ensure that it meets the College’s needs. We’ll report more on the details of that process as they become clear.

I can’t tell you how deeply delighted I am to have on track a project as important to Williams as construction of the new Sawyer Library.

Best wishes,
Adam Falk


What’s Really Wrong with Housing: Statistics and More

To put it simply, I believe a closer analysis of the Neighborhood Review Committee reports will give a lot of insight into the recent actions the College has taken.

First, let’s examine the claim that “The 2009 survey data on Neighborhood housing make clear that students are dissatisfied.” That is from the Interim Report of the Neighborhood Review Committee, October 2009 [1]. This report described what the NRC found in May 2009 when they surveyed the student population. First of all, only 30% of the on-campus student body took the survey. That is not a lot. The report also says that more info was taken from past surveys, etc.

The Final Report of the Neighborhood Review Committee Part Two, April 27, 2010, notes that “[student surveys] added nuance to the most vocal complaints [about the neighborhood system]: some student dissatisfaction could be attributed to factors other than the neighborhood system and a substantial proportion of students believed the overall goals of the system were worthy” (1) [3].

The report continues, “Indeed, during the public forums of the fall, the NRC did not hear as much public criticism about the Neighborhood system as some of us imagined we would hear.

The comparative lack of criticism this academic year does not necessarily mean that the dissatisfaction had gone away or that many students were suddenly pleased with the Neighborhood system as a whole or with their individual Neighborhood. But it does suggest that what had been identified as dissatisfaction with the Neighborhoods was a complicated phenomenon” (1) [3].

Let’s take a closer look at the data to get a better understanding of these nuances. The class of 2009 was the last class to be under both the free-agency system and the neighborhood system, even though they were only in free-agency for their freshmen year. (Keep in mind that this is only the 5th year the neighborhood system has been around. It was instituted 2006-2007 [2].) They got the worst of both worlds–the un-unified freshmen experience and the lack of choice from the neighborhood system. At the time, they were randomly assigned neighborhoods, and penalized for trying to switch.
Read more


What’s Really Wrong with the Housing System: It’s the Economy, Stupid

Hi. I’d like to use the opportunity of my first real post to introduce myself. I am Brad Polsky ’12. An Art History and Practice major, I like playing jazz and eating Italian food, amongst other things.

I am writing tonight about the housing system. If you’re reading this post, you probably already know about David Kane’s Housing Plan. If not, take a look at the posts entitled “Housing Seminars.” Dave’s plan is very detailed (18 pages long) and a good read.

However, as a student currently at Williams who is interested in the outcome of the housing debate, I cannot recommend Dave’s plan. My two main points are:

1) Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke
2) What may work in theory may not work well in practice.

I will then talk about what should be done to fix the current housing issues.

Everything’s Just Fine

In Dave’s executive summary, he gives a list of assumptions we have about housing. One that he neglects to include is that he assumes the housing system now is bad/inefficient/[insert other negative adjective here]. David says there is evidence for this: “students recognize this.” Which is funny, because he says a sentence later that he doesn’t know this but he’s sure that if students were polled they would surely agree with his view.

I’m not so sure about this. I live in Currier Neighborhood. I have friends in all other neighborhoods. Almost all people seem happy with their neighborhoods and houses, or, at the very least, are not miserable (I strongly agree with Dave on one goal of housing to minimize misery). One of my biggest issues with the system had been that it really locked you into your neighborhood, and you were penalized for trying to get out.

This has changed. There are no longer penalties for switching out. I know many people who have switched, to be closer to their friends, to get (in their eyes) better housing, or for other reasons. As I said, most people seem happy with the system and their individual situations, and if they are not they can easily switch.

And despite some of the neighborhoods not really being neighborhoods (i.e., Wood), the system has its own way of working. In Currier, the housing is rather homogeneous; there are no spectacular rooms or under par rooms. Dodd is acknowledged to have the worst sophomore housing, but housing junior and senior year in that neighborhood makes up for it. Spencer has Morgan (it used to have West; I’ll get to that later), and Wood has the beautiful row houses. As a Williams student in the neighborhood system gets older each year, she has a better pick of rooms in more locations. There is a logic to this system.
Read more


A Tour of Sage

This video is a product of Unigo, which seems to be burning through its venture capital money at an alarming rate . . .

The video claims that 60% of Williams freshmen get singles. (Mission is almost all singles.) How does that compare with peer schools?


Your next home base in the Purple Valley?

Photo by Flickr user girl_named_fred

Do you recognize these accommodations? For decades, the Wigwam Cottages and associated gift shop have sat astride Route 2, high above its famous Hairpin Turn and featuring a terrific view of North Adams, Williamstown, Pine Cobble, and the Taconics. Although most Williams students and alumni have probably driven past dozens of times, I’d wager few have ever been inside the gift shop, let alone one of the cottages. (Although I have).

For the last couple of years, however, the Wigwam has been closed. But good news is on the horizon: the site has been bought and will be refurbished — by Berkshire business mogul Nancy Fitzpatrick, owner of Stockbridge’s luxurious Red Lion Inn and MassMOCA’s Porches Inn.

On Monday, a blog post at the Porches announced:

Phew! No more keeping it a secret! We have a fun new project to share with you all – The Wigwam Cabins, located along the Mohawk Trail in North Adams, just 5 miles from Porches. These 1930s gems are ours to lovingly restore, and we can’t WAIT to get going on it!

The Transcript has more details:

Read more


Lasell Gym

Great article on Lasell Gym, presumably written by Dick Quinn.

They don’t make them like they used to.

A scant 83 years after the first renovation to the floor in Lasell Gym, one of the nation’s oldest collegiate gymnasiums still in use for Varsity competition, will have a total floor replacement beginning Aug. 9th. It’s expected to take about a month to replace the floor, but there’s no way to replace the memories and history of the grand building that sits atop Spring Street in the heart of Williamstown.

Built in 1886, a full five years before the invention of basketball, Lasell had to be modified early in the 20th century to safely accommodate its most prominent occupant – Williams basketball. Lasell opened on May 26, 1886 with a 2:30 PM exhibition of boxing, wrestling, rings, horizontal bar, tumbling, and more.

Read the whole thing for lots of Williams history trivia.

One of my big undergraduate mistakes was to never have attended an men’s basketball game. Participating in the madness of an Amherst game there must have been something. Can any readers tell us about those games?


Creative Concept for Mount Hope Farm

Elm Tree House at Mount Hope Farm, like the Log, is a truly amazing space that has historically been underutilized by the college.  The daunting challenge it presents is its location several miles from campus, which really limits its potential, as well as its own strict useage guidelines.  So far as I am aware, it only really gets used for one senior dinner dance event per year, a few alumni events per year, plus the odd conference here or there like a leadership studies weekend.  I’ve only been there twice, and that is once more than most alums I know.  But it is a spectacular building, in a spectacular location, and a tremendous asset.

Williamstown native Sarah Sylvester created some amazing concept sketches for potential renovations / additions to the Mount Hope Farm property.  I can’t imagine the main Elm Tree House ever being so extensively modified, but I love her idea for an amazing wedding chapel on the property (see image reproduced below).  A few Williams officials commented on Sylvester’s concept:

“We’ve had a few ideas brought to us for the mansion, but nothing as well thought out as this one,” said Diana E. Prideaux-Brune, the associate vice president for facilities at Williams. …
Several Williams College officials have looked at Sylvester’s proposal, including Director of Public Affairs James Koselar.

“I’d say that it’s academically interesting, but the college has no intention to significantly renovate Elm Tree House,” Koselar said in an e-mail to “In terms of capital projects, our priorities remain construction of a new library and renovation of Weston Athletic Field.”

Prideaux-Brune said she hopes to meet with Sylvester in the near future to discuss some of her ideas.

“I think she did a great job. It’s an exciting proposal,” she said. “It’s big thinking, which I love. But with something that big, the ideas are not easy to implement.

“I suspect that something this major couldn’t happen right away, but some of her ideas could be implemented in our long-term planning.”

Chapel or no, I think it would be great if some of the use restrictions were lifted, and Elm Tree House could be used for more social functions, in particular weddings and/or events for those with a connection to either Williams or Williamstown.  It could even become a profit generator for Williams, while still being available for the paucity of annual college-related events it already hosts.  Do others have ideas for how to use this property?  Coolest off-campus dorm EVER?  Centerpiece of our effort to draw more interest from royal applicants?  Creepy Eyes Wide Shut-esque secret society clubhouse?  Wicked-awesome haunted house each Halloween?  Home base for annual Billsville Lebowskifests?  Portal to bizarro-Williams located in other dimensions?  Share  your thoughts here …


Ho Land All

An anonymous faculty member writes:

Hi Dave,

I thought you might be interested in this morning’s observed alteration of the sign above the newly christened Hollander Hall. The blue cans contained Bud Light, which is not a particularly auspicious beverage. I don’t know if an endorsement of that brand was intended.

1) Excellent question! Perhaps the seniors (?) responsible for this performance art could provide some insight . . .

2) Could some Women’s Studies experts provide commentary on the usage of “Ho” in this display?

3) Can you think of something more clever that these students could have done instead? If we are going to have performance art, we want it to be high quality.

4) By the way, this anonymous faculty member is not the same as this one, or this one or this one or this one. Five different faculty members providing scoops to EphBlog, while several others have also joined in our comment threads at various times. Pretty cool, eh?


Williams Needs a Purple Cow (Striped with Yellow Highlights)

So how do we get one of these installed at the entrance of Hopkins Hall?


On Williams Architecture

Well-done WSO post from Kevin O’Connell.

It does not take a degree in architecture or design to determine whether or not a building is beautiful, that is, pleasing to one’s senses. That is entirely subjective, though I will hazard to assert that there are certain qualities in architecture that a great majority of human beings, wherever they are from or whatever time period they live in, find beautiful. It is important to note that when the Beaux Arts style was first introduced in the late nineteenth century, it was universally acclaimed by both critics and laypeople.

The buildings on campus that were built before the second world war represent a variety of architectural styles. We have colonial, collegiate gothic, Georgian revival, English Renaissance, Medieval, and Neo-Classical buildings, to name a few. In my opinion, these incredibly diverse buildings are united by their beauty, which I feel has a universal and timeless quality. The campus also has a good representation of the architectural fads of the post-world war two world. We have modern, brutalist, utilitarian, and postmodern buildings. In my opinion, what distinguishes these buildings–and divides them from the older construction on campus–is that they fail to be beautiful. They lack the symmetry, balance, basic polygonal structure, adornment, and sight sensitivity that unites the diverse older buildings.

Postmodernism is a brand of gourmet architecture and therefore represents a choice. The college did not build the NAB, SAB, and Paresky center in the style that they did to save money. For the same price, the college could have built buildings in a more traditional style that would have positively interacted with the older campus. Granted, in the early twentieth century, when Chapin Hall was built, there was a large labor pool of skilled Italian immigrant stone-masons whose ubiquity and expertise made adornments significantly less expensive than they are today, when several generations of mass construction and modernist taste have all but eliminated masonry and stonecutting as trades. Nevertheless, other colleges, such as Middlebury and Harvard, have made a conscious effort to ensure that their new construction, in addition to being environmentally friendly and highly functional, also blends in with the old campus and is beautiful, despite failing to live up to the grandeur of those older buildings.

What say EphBlog’s readers?


Hollander Hall

from: Adam Falk
date: Fri, May 7, 2010 at 8:30 AM
subject: Naming the North Academic Building

To the Williams Community,

As we conclude the academic year, I am delighted to announce that the North Academic Building, completed in 2008, will from here on be known as Hollander Hall, named by Richard and Jackie Hollander in honor of their sons Jordan and Adam, both members of the Class of 2010.

The Hollanders funded the building’s construction several years ago through one of the largest gifts made to The Williams Campaign, requesting at the time that their contribution remain anonymous until their sons’ graduation.

There are at least three things to celebrate here. The most immediate is the exceptional dedication and generosity represented by this gift. Richard and Jackie have said that they made it because of the effect they could see Williams having on the lives of its students, their understanding that the building resided at the center of a thoughtful plan to enhance the College’s academic facilities, and their deep admiration for the leadership of Morty Schapiro.

We celebrate also the extraordinary teaching and learning that Hollander Hall makes possible. Classrooms, language facilities, an archaeology lab, offices that can accommodate tutorials, gathering spaces that encourage spontaneous conversation—all of these advance the kind of activities that lie at the heart of our community of learning.

Our third celebration is of the College’s commitment to environmental sustainability, as Hollander Hall, along with its companion, Schapiro Hall, earned LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold status.

On behalf of the countless students, faculty, and staff whose experiences will be enhanced by this remarkable structure, I deeply thank the Hollanders for this truly transforming gift to Williams.

Best wishes,
Adam Falk

Thanks to ’10 for the heads up. I never would have guessed this name.


Photo of new Purple Pub exterior

From iBerkshires:

Thanks to JeffZ for the link.


Reopening The Log

From The Eagle:

Williams College officials are considering a student-generated proposal which would result in regular hours for the Log, a small white college-owned building on Spring Street that once functioned as a social center with a pub-like setting.

Since it closed in 2007 to coincide with the opening of the Paresky Center on the campus proper, students have regularly expressed a yearning for the Log’s reopening, saying it would fill a void in the social life of many college students.

This proposal, submitted by members of an association of students dedicated to improving the college and student life known as the Gargoyle Society, laid out limited hours and days of operation, with a short menu of beer and wine, and a limited menu of sandwiches.

Was this proposal really driven by the Gargoyles? If so, kudos.
Read more


The Once and Future Log

In what seems like a twice-per-decade occurrence, students are involved in an effort to revitalize The Log, which, apparently, has lay virtually dormant since 2007.  Sometimes these efforts will go strong for a year, but inevitably interest / enthusiasm seems to wane as the generation motivated enough to establish a new tradition (which oftentimes is quite popular) graduates.  More details, and a petition drive, can be located at the Willipedia page on point.

If President Falk wants to make an instant impact on campus, some creative thinking about how to better utilize one of the very best, if not the best, social spaces on campus would be a great place to start: in particular, some sort of mechanism to keep momentum and funding in place from year to year would be ideal … perhaps using The Log more during the early weeks of First Year, to establish its value early on in students’ tenure at Williams.  No student space has remotely the same character or history, not to mention a perfect location on Spring Street.

Fortunately, it seems like there is a lot of student enthusiasm and commitment behind this latest effort.  Maybe Ephbloggers with fond Log memories could share their thoughts on the best past uses of the The Log?  A history of what has worked, and what hasn’t, over the years at the Log might help guide current students in their efforts.  The biggest problem will, of course, always be the drinking age, which is what destroyed the Log as a central part of campus social life, to begin with.  Any viable plan for the Log HAS to feature a wide array of options that will be equally attractive whether or not alcohol is involved.

I believe that weekly Pub Trivia, mentioned in the WSO thread, is a great idea that would attract a lot of students to the Log.  In the fall, football and pizza / wings Sundays would likely be popular; so would, I imagine, a March Madness set-up.  Anyone else have thoughts for ideas that would attract those under and over 21 alike?


What About the New Library?

From College Librarian (and all around excellent guy) David Pilachowski:

A fair question is “How can we be sure that new Sawyer Library, as it will be called, will provide a long-term answer to campus library needs for 50-100 years?” With the assistance of the Bohlin Cywinski Jackson architects, and the involvement of the Stetson/Sawyer Building Committee, librarians and information technologists, and the President’s Senior Staff, the building has been designed to meet changing needs over the years ahead. In particular, the collection area will accommodate compact shelving on all levels; an off-site shelving facility can accommodate growing collections while ensuring that users are not squeezed out by books; raised floors and demountable walls in areas most impacted by technology changes will facilitate repurposing space; and standard floor to ceiling heights will allow conversion of selective collection space to such people-centric functions as classrooms and academic support should that be desired.

1) The College ought to put the plans on-line so that the rest of us can take a peak. (UPDATE: Here are some details. Thanks to Pilachowski for the link.)

2) I have a great deal of faith in Pilachowski, Professor Michael Brown and all the other folks engaged in this project. I bet that the new Stetson/Sawyer (or INSERT-YOUR-NAME-HERE) will be fantastic.

3) I still wish that the College had not engaged in this particular spending spree, but, at this point, there is no going back.

4) What is the carbon emissions impact of this new construction? Williams won’t tell you! Nor will it include that impact in its aren’t-we-special report on carbon emissions. This is the main environmental hypocrisy of Williams: We claim to be reducing carbon emissions, but then we don’t count the carbon emissions associated with new construction.

5) My main concern is with “repurposing space.” What percentage of the total floor space is devoted to books and periodicals? My prediction is that, within a decade, less than 10% of that space will be needed. Anything not online, and easily reachable via Kindle/Ipad/Android, will be invisible and unwanted. As long as most/all of that space can, easily, be turned into classrooms, meeting spaces and so on, I am satisfied.


Stetson and the Chapin Library

From Wayne G. Hammond, who is a librarian at the Chapin Library of Rare Books:

Replying to multiple comments:

Stetson was built to hold the College Library, the Chapin Library, and faculty offices, built around a central stack core. In the fifties, the stacks were extended to the east, and in the sixties an annex was added which housed the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research. When the College Library moved into the new Sawyer building in 1975, the Chapin Library and the original stacks remained intact but the stacks addition was divided into the small faculty offices Ronit mentions. It was this latter space that was the labyrinth; the original, 1923 building is relatively easy to navigate.

There are two formal facades, the one pictured on the west and another on the south, representing the two Stetson Hall libraries. The south door was the “Chapin Library entrance” as it’s nearest the grand staircase going up to the Chapin on the second floor (not the top: there are two floors more, with faculty offices and classrooms). There are inscribed names on both facades, an eclectic mix chosen by the architect.

Stetson is to be taken back to the 1923 building and generally restored, with a new Sawyer Library attached on the east: more can be read about the plans here. The upper floors will still have faculty offices and classrooms. The faculty lounge will revert to what it was designed to be, a grand reading room. The Preston Room will be dismantled and reconstructed within the new library. The Chapin Library will return to its original splendid rooms, connected to additional spaces in the new building, all shared with College Archives.

As for “opening again someday soon”, the Chapin and College Archives moved to temporary quarters in the old Southworth Schoolhouse (corner of Southworth and School streets) in July 2008 and reopened for business that September.

Wayne Hammond
Chapin Library


Law and Orders …

The Republican response to the State of the Union speech was given in the Virginia State capital building by the newly elected governor. The Virginia legislature is the oldest in the Western hemisphere (1609).

Without any comment on the response which by design does not specifically reference the State of the Union speech, I add to your enjoyment (or not) of the response with this sidebar on the setting in which it was given

Thomas Jefferson is credited with the architectural design of the new Virginia State Capital building, which was modeled after the Maison Carrée at Nîmes in southern France, an ancient Roman temple. Jefferson had the architect, Charles-Louis Clérisseau, substitute the Roman Ionic Order over the more ornate Corinthian column designs of the prototype in France. The General Assembly first met in the building in October, 1792.

Yes, bring back those memories of Whit Stoddard and drawing the orders in your notebook. And the interpretation that Doric was suggestive of strength and simplicity, Ionic of elegance and education, and Corinthian of affluence and power.

Jefferson used architecture as a subtle statement of his own style.


The Houses of Williamstown: Baxter Hall …

(This is the last post in a series of 16)

Final NA top
Continues under the fold Read more


The Houses of Williamstown: Knitting Club (Kappa Chi) …

A special addition to the 16 part series.
KX Secret


The Houses of Williamstown: Zeta Psi …

(This is the 15th in a series of 16 posts)
Zetes Top copy
This article continues under the fold Read more


Williams Online

Let’s just say that this little post of Williams on Twitter ballooned a bit, shall we?

Ideas on how better can this post be organized?


Williams on Facebook:



Event Information/Calendars:



The Houses of Williamstown: Theta Delta Chi …

(This is the 14th of a series of 16 posts)
tdx Top copy
Article continues under the fold Read more


Reading as an active enterprise

Photo credit Getty Images / Lonely Planet

Photo credit Getty Images / Lonely Planet

Professor Michael Lewis has an article in the WSJ about the Fisher Fine Arts library at the University of Pennsylvania. This stood out for me:

Except for our dwellings, there are few buildings we come to know intimately. A college library is one exception, a building we tend to inhabit fully, day and night. And even if critics did not respect Furness’s brooding building, its users have always loved it, as much for its tactile richness as for its generous light and space.

(h/t CHenry and Alan Cordova ’06)

Ken Thomas asks:

Anyone want to talk about Sawyer as a lived space? Or what it means to destroy a living space?


The Houses of Williamstown: Sigma Phi …

(This is the 13th in a series of 16 posts)
Sig Phi Top copy
Continues under the fold Read more


The Houses of Williamstown: St. Anthony Hall (Delta Psi) …

(The 12th in a series of 16 posts)
St A Top copy
Continues under the fold Read more


the Houses of Williamstown: Psi Upsilon …

(This is the 11th in a series of 16 posts)
Psi u Top copy
This article continues under the fold Read more


The Houses of Williamstown: Phi Sigma Kappa …

(This is the 10th in a series of 16 posts)
Phi Sig Top copy
This article continues below the fold Read more


The Houses of Williamstown: Phi Gamma Delta …

(this is 9th of 16 posts)Phi Gam Top copy
This article continues below the fold Read more


Next Page →

Currently browsing posts filed under "Buildings"

Follow this category via RSS