Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Stokes Hall at Boston College: Planning a New Home for Humanities: The Team Designed and Constructed a New Humanities Building That Creates a Sense of 'There' That Can Be Found Nowhere Else

Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Stokes Hall at Boston College: Planning a New Home for Humanities: The Team Designed and Constructed a New Humanities Building That Creates a Sense of 'There' That Can Be Found Nowhere Else

Article excerpt

PROJECT STATEMENT

IN 2008, DURING A TIME of national financial turmoil and uncertainty, Boston College (BC) began to realize its historic Middle Campus master plan, beginning with the development of Stokes Hall, a new humanities building (figure 1). Such confident support for the study of the humanities was especially significant during a time when many institutions would have questioned this investment and dismissed its importance. The decision to build underscored BC's commitment to its Jesuit mission: to give students the richest possible humanities-based education, one that serves as the foundation for the development of generous, thoughtful, and inquisitive community members. David Quigley, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, summarized the building's goals best. He stated: "Stokes Hall embodies Boston College's enduring commitment to the liberal arts, which is a cornerstone of Jesuit education and the heart of our identity. Humanities in particular form the core of our undergraduate requirements, which enables us to integrate the academic, social, and spiritual development of our students as they study here. This building is intentionally designed to support that liberal arts commitment and to foster student formation through enhanced student-faculty interaction."

Situated on the undulating terrain of Chestnut Hill, Boston College is divided between Lower, Middle, and Upper Campus plateaus. Stokes Hall is located on the Middle Campus, the university's original plateau identifiable by its Collegiate Gothic design and traditional campus quadrangles. This plateau supports the majority of the academic buildings. The Middle Campus also forms the aesthetic identity at the core of the school. The project team developed Stokes Hall in response to the long-term goals of the master plan specific to the Middle Campus plateau. The Lower Campus supports dining, dormitories, and administration buildings in a more modern architectural style, and the Upper Campus is home to underclassmen dormitories.

The university leadership, most notably the president, demonstrated a strong conviction in early planning discussions for Stokes Hall that matching or exceeding the quality of the surrounding campus context was paramount to the new facility's success (figure 2). The size of the site was limited, and land on the Middle Campus, as a general resource, is finite. Any decisions made for this site, including the building program, needed to be balanced between the building's capacity, its potential impact on any future development, and the overall image of the BC community.

Housing the humanities program or a new food service facility were the two uses originally considered for the site. While the program needs of the two uses differed widely, the general design parameters and planning goals remained the same: to fulfill the university's mission with great efficiency, express its identity with clarity, and provide the level of building performance and efficiency expected. The project was made possible through fund-raising and a generous gift by university trustee Patrick T. Stokes '64 and his wife Anna-Kristin "Aja" Stokes, P'91, '94, '97. All project teams worked extremely closely together and communicated with university leadership to successfully keep the project under the construction budget of $62 million.

Early planning and program explorations were extremely informative. A primary design driver was the school's commitment to a form of the Collegiate Gothic aesthetic unique to Boston College. However, this design goal needed to be met without sacrificing other building efficiencies. The team began work by first delving into the school's own story and history as a basis for understanding how this style would inform the planning process.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

When Boston College relocated from Boston's South End to the village of Chestnut Hill in the early 1900s, Collegiate Gothic was just evolving as the style of choice on American campuses as a response to the architectural styles of Oxford and Cambridge in the United Kingdom. …

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