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Architecture firm chosen for ARH/Carnegie


On Monday, Feb. 9, President Raynard Kington announced his selection of the EYP architecture firm to renovate and expand ARH and Carnegie into a new Humanities and Social Studies Complex. Kington made this selection with the recommendation of the College’s Building Projects Committee (BPC), and the decision was announced via a Special Campus Memo sent by the Office of Communications.

By November 2014, the committee had narrowed the applicant pool down to three design firms: EYP, Sasaki Associates and Tsoi/Kobus and Associates. Representatives from each firm visited the College for committee interviews and gave proposal presentations. Over the past three months, several committee members traveled to Boston to visit the offices of all three firms and conduct further research on their creative processes and design philosophies. Committee members also visited colleges for which each firm had completed work to gain a sense of how their design plans function in a campus environment.

Ultimately, it was EYP’s central focus on the way classroom and building spaces foster communication and collaboration to create effective learning environments that distinguished the firm from its competitors, according to Kate Walker, Treasurer and Vice President for Finance and the chair of the Building Projects Committee. She further noted that the firm has a behavioral research program dedicated entirely to the way building design impacts learning.


Professor Jim Swartz, Chemistry, who has been involved in the College’s redesign plans for years, noticed that while math and science students flock to Noyce Science Center to complete homework or collaborate on group projects, ARH and Carnegie do not have that same draw for humanities and social studies students.

“Chemistry students always tell me that Noyce is such a great space because if they’re getting stuck on a homework problem, they can just walk around and find someone nearby who has either taken the class or is in it right now,” he said. “With this new building, I’m excited to create that same sort of community for humanities students.”

According to the memo, the committee believes that EYP spoke to these needs through their specialty in creating spaces that allow for student congregation and engagement. Specific plans for renovation include larger classrooms and more adaptable furniture that will make the transition from large to small group work easier. More open spaces will also be incorporated into hallway areas to allow for student congregation and engagement.

“[EYP’s] knowledge of pedagogy was extremely important. Their understanding of how a Grinnell classroom functions and how teachers teach made them stand out to us more than the other two firms,” said Gwenna Ihrie ’15, SGA Vice President for Academic Affairs and a member of the Building Projects Committee.

Members of the committee pointed out that EYP has garnered a number of accolades, most notably being chosen as the number-one-ranked firm for sustainability in 2014 by Architecture Magazine. According to Walker, dedication to environmental sustainability was a key criterion for the committee in choosing a design firm for this project.

“[EYP has] designed many LEED [Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design]-certified buildings on college campuses, with ratings from Silver to Platinum. Our minimum threshold for the Humanities and Social Studies Complex is LEED Silver, a standard we hope to exceed with the help of EYP’s design expertise,” Walker wrote in an email to The S&B.

In terms of a timeline on construction, the building is not expected to be complete until 2019 or 2020. Currently, EYP is still in the developmental stages of creating plans for the construction.

“We’re still developing the project schedule with EYP, but we expect the design phase to take many months.  It could conceivably be a year before we approve the final design,” Walker wrote, adding that the Building Committee will continue to work closely with EYP in the ongoing design process.

A statement on the College’s website estimates that construction for the Humanities and Social Studies Complex will begin in late 2016.

Historically, this renovation and expansion of the ARH and Carnegie buildings is the largest and most complex component of the Phase I projects in the College’s three-phase redesign process. Other Phase I projects include updates to the Office of Admissions and landscape design.

The total cost of the Phase I projects is estimated to be approximately $100 million.

“The financing plan approved by the Board of Trustees last May calls for $20 million to come from gifts, with the remaining $80 million covered by a debt issue,” Walker wrote.

Most students are aware of the plans to renovate and expand ARH and Carnegie, and reactions have generally been mixed. Some have expressed the sentiment that the College should focus on allocating funds to address the needs of SHACS, which has been struggling to meet the demand for more mental health professionals.

Ihrie clarified that funding for SHACS and other aspects of campus life are not connected to funds for construction.

“[The College] is not using existing funds for this project,” Ihrie said. “There is a separate campaign to finance the new complex” that does not involve funds in other sectors of the College.

As the only student on the Building Committee, Ihrie said that she is excited about playing a role in development that will potentially change how the humanities and social sciences are taught and understood at Grinnell.

“We have a whole responsibility as an educational institution to keep progressing and moving forward. We hope to be really innovative and create a new definition of what it means to be a humanities and social sciences major at Grinnell, and even in the broader country,” Ihrie said.

“What we noticed when we were looking at architectural design on other campuses is that most schools aren’t doing these types of renovations for the humanities and social sciences,” Swartz said. “There’s a lot of focus on new construction for science buildings, for athletic facilities, for student centers. In terms of constructing this new space for humanities and social sciences, we are pioneering in a sense.”

Kington highlighted the College’s continuous prerogative to renovate and expand in order to best serve its students in an email to The S&B.

“When ARH was built in 1905 with alumni support, it was designed to move Grinnell from an old lecture-based teaching model to the emerging practice of ‘recitation.’ A century later, a new humanities and social studies complex will again support the latest forms of teaching and learning,” he wrote.

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