Realizing a Dream
WPI has undergone dramatic growth since its first graduating class of 16 men set forth in 1871. Today, the University's student body consists of some 3,600 men and women, including more than 1,000 graduate students. It employs more than 200 faculty members and a staff of 400, compared to the handful of employees who worked here 130 years ago. And its campus has grown from two buildings on six acres to 31 buildings on 80 acres. These changes have made it increasingly difficult to maintain a sense of community.
The idea of building a facility to address this concern has been developing over more than three decades. In the late 1960s, the faculty Planning Committee that drafted WPI's project-based curriculum recommended that a campus center be built to help foster the positive social climate and sense of community that the curriculum demanded.
The Commission on Residential and Social Life at WPI echoed this recommendation in a 1992 report. Planning began in earnest shortly thereafter with the creation of a Campus Center Committee to develop a program and recommend a location for the proposed facility. At its March 1997 meeting, WPI's Board of Trustees resolved to support this project through the selection of an architect and completion of a design ready for bidding by the end of the 1998 fiscal year. The Board established an October 1999 start date for the project at its October 1997 meeting, and established the Center as the primary physical facilities goal of the Campaign for WPI.
The Campus Center provides a physical, social and philosophical link between academic and residential portions of the campus; it is a place for community collegiality, socialization and learning. The siting for the Center, adjacent to the Alumni Gymnasium and fronting on the fountain in Reunion Plaza, is the geographical center of the campus, tying together the academic, recreational and residential communities.
The use of the term "campus" rather than "student" in the Center's name is purposeful. Including, as it does, work and meeting space for faculty, staff and student organizations, conference rooms, mail facilities, food services, game room, college bookstore, large multipurpose facilities, visitor reception for campus guests, and lounges, the Center serves as a gathering place for the entire WPI community.
Form follows function in the Center. Two separate "fronts" invite access from the two separate heavily trafficked areas of the campus, West Street and the Quadrangle. A third side, with two floors of windows and easy access to a patio and green space, links the Center with WPI's major function area, Higgins House. Use of the Center by the entire campus community is ensured - the food court, site of faculty, staff, student and guest casual dining, and the mail room are be located on the lower floor.
The design heightens student group interaction: student organizational offices such as the campus newspaper, the Student Government Association, the International Student Council, the Graduate Student Association and the Interfraternity Council are centered around a large student work area, where individuals from many organizations will work next to one another. Lounges scattered throughout the building invite conversation and socialization. The bookstore, expanded into a "marketplace", and coffee shop provides further cultivation of planned and unplanned group activities and individual interactions.
The Campus Center also positively impacts human and physical resource allocation. All catering and non-meal plan food service activities are centralized in the Center, with a large kitchen, storage rooms and a variety of meeting/dining areas available. The Center includes an equally diverse number and size of meeting spaces, solving most needs of the campus and freeing currently used meeting areas across campus for other uses.
Also included in the new facility is a large multi-purpose room designed to accommodate a broad range of events and activities, from conferences to concerts and plays to student dances. It is in almost constant use, hosting members of the campus community and guests from Greater Worcester and around the world. The entrance to this room will be transformed into a permanent tribute to the corporate relationships that have contributed significantly to WPI's success throughout the years. The logos of participating corporate partners will be included in a colorful and highly visible display that will be seen by visitors as they enter and leave, and gather for receptions and other events in the adjoining corridor.
WPI's lack of adequate student (and faculty/staff) social facilities has long been the most commonly sited major weakness of the University. Competition for future students by the University depends not only on meeting and/or surpassing peer institution's academic programs, but developing a complementary social community.
The architect selected to design the new Campus Center was Shepley Bulfinch Richardson and Abbott. Founded in Boston in 1874 by Henry Hobson Richardson, the firm has been a major early influence in American architecture design. Academic projects with which Shepley Bulfinch Richardson and Abbott have been involved include the original design of Stanford University in 1888, more than 120 separate projects for Harvard University, and various projects at colleges throughout the country.
The total cost of the 71,000 square-foot Campus Center was over $17 million. Construction began in October 1999, and the Center opened its doors on March 19, 2001. An official dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on March 30, 2001.Maintained by firstname.lastname@example.org
Last modified: December 06, 2007 16:25:04