On The Horizon
By Lucy Kellison ′13
Spreading a roll of architectural plans across her desk, Marianne Luther, director of Residential Life, points to a large room, which she then identifies as a common area. “This is going to be a large space on the first floor with a big walkthrough on either end,” she explains. “Here you can see a full kitchen, fireplaces, large screen TVs, movable furniture—lots of things to make it comfortable and accessible for students.”
The floor plan to which she is pointing shows the ground floor of two new residence halls being built on what was the Alfred C. Glassell Residence Hall parking site running parallel with the Bailey Lane entrance. The construction of the halls is one part of an 18-month project that also includes the renovation and expansion of the existing Catherine Burrow Refectory, which will include a major new servery and dining hall. In total, the addition to the refectory will be 19,000 square feet. The new residence halls will be 52,000 square feet.
In March, construction workers broke ground for the new residence halls, which along with the remodeled and expanded refectory are scheduled to open in August 2012.
“The demand for housing has been excessive for several years,” Luther explains. “The addition of East Village in 2001 met our housing needs for about three years, and since then, the demand has been consistent. We had to look seriously at our stock and our enrollment numbers, and we realized that we needed to build.”
According to Carol Casey, dean of students, “This past fall, students, particularly in the first year class, felt a little more crowded. So that was a challenge, especially in halls like Glassell, where we had to convert a social room into a student room and some resident assistants took roommates. But, as a residential liberal arts college, Rhodes is committed to providing housing for those students who desire it.”
Part of the problem Luther faces in finding on-campus housing for all students who want it is that the junior class has never had a “designated” space. Existing halls are reserved specifically for first and second year students, and East Village was designed for seniors.
“Though we still don’t know how the selection process is going to work, my goal is for the new halls to be for juniors,” says Luther. “Studies have shown that students who live on campus have higher GPAs, are more engaged, and are more likely to persist in their college career. When it comes down to it, Rhodes is a liberal arts college, and it is part of the foundation of who we are to be a residential campus.”
In spring 2010, Luther, Casey and Allen Boone ’71, vice president for finance and business affairs, other administrators and campus architects revisited a residential master plan created a decade ago by Hanbury Evans Wright + Vlattas, the architectural firm that designed East Village, the Paul Barret Jr. Library and the Burrow Hall and Palmer Hall renovations. The team decided that the Bailey Lane site was the most desirable space to build, as it would create a new quadrangle formed by Glassell Hall, the Moore Moore Infirmary and the expanded refectory. The architects then began work to develop preliminary plans for the new residence halls, to which they temporarily refer as “West Village” until an official name is unveiled. The building incorporates what Luther calls a “deluxe suite” style, where every suite houses eight to 10 people and has a mixture of either single or double rooms, with a common area that students can share.
“This provides a different type of housing style than we have anywhere else on campus,” says Luther. “The main difference between the new building and East Village is that there are no kitchens in these suites. The suites in Robinson and Blount are very popular, so we tried to design something along those lines.”
Members of the group began the planning process in May 2010 after the Board of Trustees authorized them to proceed in the design and engineering of the project. To help ensure that the new residence halls would be tailored to the needs and wants of Rhodes students, Luther organized student focus groups to provide input in the design process. The groups met at two different points, and each comprised five to seven students. The first group, which met over the summer, discussed the pros and cons of the initial design. Luther took their comments to the architects, then met with students again to discuss more finite details, including finishes and carpeting.
Oliver Haynes ’13, recipient of the Harold “Chicken” High Scholarship, and Kelly Johnson ’14 participated in the second round of focus groups. There, they discussed wall colors, rug samples and possibilities for lighting in the rooms. Johnson says that having focus groups like the one she participated in to discuss interior design details are important because they convey a wide representation of student input. “I think the administration was really interested to see how we felt about other buildings on campus and if we wanted this one to be different,” says Johnson. “It seemed like the design was going for a traditional, classic Rhodes style with a modern spin.”
The two buildings will contain three floors of suites, and will house a total of 141 students, putting its capacity at slightly less than that of East Village and Glassell. The suites will consist of different combinations of singles and doubles, all furnished with closet space, desks and lofted beds. In addition, each suite will have one or two bathrooms and a common area. The design also includes study and laundry rooms on each floor, and a large first floor common room. Special emphasis was made in the design to enhance soundproofing between suites and between floors, an issue of concern to many students. Johnson, who lived in Robinson Hall her first year, says she especially appreciates the suite style of rooms and the attention to detail in the plan.
“The design includes study rooms that are soundproof,” says Johnson. “I’m glad I got to see exactly what these rooms would look like. I love the look of Rhodes architecture on the outside, and I think the inside really reflects that same feel.”
Haynes, who has lived on campus for two years, says that implementing lighting other than traditional fluorescent beams was something that students in the group had an especially strong interest in discussing.
“I think our perspective was really heard on the lighting issue,” says Haynes. “One of the big concerns students voiced was using upward facing lighting instead of typical fluorescent beams. I think the layout is good for a junior dorm—just as nice as East Village, if not nicer.”
The administrators directing the project have plans to conduct a similar focus group for the interior décor in the renovated refectory. As the primary food service operation on campus, the structure has been added onto at least twice since the original building was constructed in 1925. The most recent addition took place about 25 years ago, and involved the addition of servery B, Rollow Hall and other small improvements. Boone says that because of increasing enrollment, the need has once again arisen to renovate and expand.
In the current architectural renderings, the new grand servery will be about three times larger in square footage than the current A and B serveries combined. Part of the plan is to remove the loft that currently sits over the lobby to open the space up and create what Boone calls a “more welcoming and open entrance to the refectory.” The existing kitchen area will be completely gutted to create a fireside lobby area complete with comfortable seating where students can socialize or dine.
One of the main features of the renovation will be the new grand servery, which will have exhibition style cooking, similar to the style of cooking that exists in the L. Palmer Brown Lynx Lair. Among some of the stations will be a new salad bar, a bakery, large pizza oven, a station with more vegan and vegetarian options and a traditional “homezone” line.
“This will be a very spacious area, with ample natural light from new windows and a large skylight in the center of the room,” says Boone. “Much of the cooking will be prepared on-site, in front of patrons, so the presentation is not only about the experience, but the quality. There will be a Mongolian grill and a pizza oven similar to the one at the Lair. With this design, the breads and desserts will be made right in front of you.”
The kitchen itself will be moved downstairs, and menu ingredients will be brought up to the main servery by a service elevator. The new dining hall will include a couple of additional private dining areas. Since the upstairs student residence rooms in Hugh M. Neely Hall will be reclaimed as offices for Aramark (Rhodes’ dining service), the Bell Room, where the offices are currently located, will also be reconverted to a private dining room to make a total of six private dining rooms in the complex. According to Boone, improved features include an entirely new system of handling dishwashing. To replace the current method of placing dishes and trays on carts, a conveyor belt system will be installed to carry dishes downstairs into the main dishwashing area.
Boone hopes the college will be able to provide more dining options in the facility as well. “We are discussing some kind of late night service for students, where there could be access to the dining hall and the servery,” he explains. “We have to work out the details of how such additional food options will be implemented. We’ll just have to experiment with student interest and demand.”
For information on naming opportunities for these projects please contact Jenna Goodloe Wade, 901-843-3852, or firstname.lastname@example.org.