The humanities will have a new home at the heart of the Bucknell University campus.
During its meeting Feb. 2–4, the Bucknell Board of Trustees approved plans for the extensive renovation and expansion of Demosthenean Hall, transforming the building into a hub for the humanities at Bucknell. The former Delta Upsilon fraternity house next to Bertrand Library will be home for the Humanities Center, an initiative launched in 2015 to enhance the visibility of the humanities and foster excellence in scholarship and teaching. It will also house the Bucknell University Press and Griot Institute for Africana Studies.
"I'm very happy that the trustees, the president and the administration have decided to invest in this at a time when there seems to be increasing threat to the humanities," said James Mark Shields, inaugural director of the Humanities Center and professor of comparative humanities and Asian thought. "Bucknell is making a stand and reinforcing the idea that the humanities are key to what we do and that we have to support them."
Plans for the building were conceived over two years of meetings between administrators and Bucknell's Humanities Council, which includes representatives of each humanities discipline. Student use of the building was a central consideration in the design process, Shields said.
"The students we polled were almost unanimous in saying that they wanted a space where they could do intellectual work that wasn't a classroom, dormitory or social space," Shields said. "We want to expand the humanities beyond the classroom with the grand vision of making the humanities a greater part of the identity of the University."
That demand was incorporated in one of the building's key features, a first-floor great room that will typically function as a hearth space, a large and comfortable area for study and collaboration. The great room will also support Humanities Center's programming series, and will accommodate a 100-person lecture or 50-person banquet. It will open onto a patio space and formal outdoor garden. The building will also support student scholarship and collaboration through five conference and seminar rooms, a digital humanities laboratory, library, additional collaboration spaces, and a kitchen that can be used by classes and clubs.
Currently home to the computing & technology affinity house, Demosthenean Hall was constructed in 1941 by the fraternity Delta Sigma, a local organization that later would become a chapter of Delta Upsilon. A 4,500-square-foot addition was completed in 1966, and in 2005 the University acquired the building and made significant improvements. Bucknell will preserve the building's historic character and display artifacts from Delta Upsilon inside the building.
The current renovation and expansion project will add add a new wing to the side of the building facing the Vaughan Literature Building, increasing interior space by 30 percent to a total of 21,704 square feet. The 7,032-square-foot addition will bring the building's scale and look closer in line with the larger surrounding buildings. The new addition will reorient the building's main entrance to face the Vaughan Literature Building and increase the its symmetry, a hallmark of the campus' Collegiate Georgian architectural style.
"We brought the scale up to give the building presence and moved it out closer to being in line with Dana to create the symmetry that the campus architectural style demands," said Ken Ogawa, associate vice president for Bucknell Facilities. "A balance of programmatic and aesthetic issues drove the way the building has evolved."
The University will seek Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for the project, which includes measures to improve the building's energy efficiency as well as to bring nature inside the building. The renovation will open up interior walls, add basement-level windows, and install a new central atrium extending from a gabled skylight through to the first floor, allowing natural light to permeate the building. Plans also include a rooftop garden above a one-floor addition between the two wings, indoor planters and a "living wall" inside the atrium, with wall-mounted planters and an irrigation system. The renovation will also make the building ADA accessible.
Renovation and construction work is scheduled to begin following Reunion weekend in June, with a target opening of March 2018.
Also approved at the latest trustees meeting were improvements to Depew and Becker fields, the University's baseball and softball complex, which will add grandstands with more than 1,100 seats, as well as new press boxes, comfort facilities and accessible parking. That $2.1 million project has been fully funded by donors.