New building for Arts

New building for Arts McGill University

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McGill Reporter
May 8, 2003 - Volume 35 Number 15
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Home > McGill Reporter > Volume 35: 2002-2003 > May 8, 2003 > New building for Arts

New building for Arts

Architectural rendering Architectural rendering
Map view of project Sketch

Architectural rendering

The winds of change are blowing over the Faculty of Arts this spring. Sociology professor John Hall has just been named Dean, and plans are afoot for a new building complex.

Associate Dean of Arts Chris Ragan is pretty happy to show off the conceptual design for the Arts building-to-be. The architects behind the bricks and mortar of social sciences and humanities are Saucier and Perrotte, who also designed the new music building.

There are two phases to the plan. Phase I will take up space on the northeast corner of Peel and Dr. Penfield, south of Ross House (which will probably become a research centre). The Powell Building will be knocked down, as will the Linguistics Building. There are three components: 1) a quiet corridor building between Thomson House and Ross House, ideal for professors' offices; 2) a larger translucent, possibly transparent, building in the centre that will house graduate student offices and administrative space, along with seminar rooms and social space; and 3) on top of the linguistics building footprint, where the noise will be greatest, a triangular building slated for classrooms and a student lounge. The roof of this last building could be a great spot for a terrace, should someone be willing to donate a bit of money for it.

Phase II will replace the apartment building on the corner of McTavish and take up space to the north, stopping shy of the Thomson House coach house. Linguistics and the four language departments will go into the Phase I building. Phase I won't actually bring more space to the Faculty of Arts, but will provide elbow room for the university by taking the folks out of Peterson Hall and 688 Sherbrooke.

It's estimated that Phase I will cost $15 million. As exciting as the new digs will be, Ragan told the Reporter, "it's a cheap building -- there are no fume hoods. It's just space," 4,400 net metres worth. Ragan explained that "net" means "the space that people think of as space," such as classrooms and offices -- not walls, hallways and bathrooms. Including those brings the total up to 6,800 gross square metres.

Although $450,000 has already gone towards planning, the university has yet to give the final approval. Ragan imagines that once that is done, the final plans could be drafted up, then the ground broken by early next summer. Staff could possibly move in for fall 2005.

Ragan hopes for full financial commitment from the university, since they are the ones who will benefit by gaining all that space. Phase II is completely an Arts Faculty priority, for which they will raise $25 million. Already, the Eakin family has promised $1 million for a lecture theatre in the Phase II building, contingent upon the university funding Phase I.

Details are still to be worked out. There were plenty of lively questions and suggestions at the Faculty of Arts meeting April 15, when Ragan presented the plans. Arts staff were happy to hear the buildings should have openable windows and slightly more classrooms. Will there be a tunnel beneath Penfield? No, that's not allowed because of the reservoir pipes. There was a bit of debate about access to light versus need for quiet for the professors' offices, but as Ragan pointed out, this can all be discussed in preparation for the final plans.

From a bird's eye view, one can see how a folded plane will come down the slope of the site and fold over the third building, which has uneven windows and grooves, looking sort of like an old-fangled computer punch card. This, Ragan said, is the architect's spatial, compressed rendering of a text. Spaces between words and paragraphs, clumps of letters, will cloak the Arts building. The text is yet to be chosen, but he added it should be one we all know and love.

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