A STUDENT CENTER FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
Plans are underway for the construction of a student center on the site of the former Eggleston Library. The new building, with its strategic location between the Commons in Settle Hall and the Bortz Library, is expected to provide a social and activities hub for the campus.
“We have never really had a student center at Hampden-Sydney,” says Dean of Students David A. Klein ’78, “so we are still working out exactly what we need and what the students want. One great advantage we have in that process is the incredible success we have had with the Bortz Library as a place where students go, not just to study or to look up a book, but as a focal point of activity on campus. Students are there all the time. A lot of that success lies in the informal gathering spaces where you and a friend can find a little spot and have a conversation. We want to take that success and replicate it in the student center.”
The new building will have an entrance on Via Sacra that will blend seamlessly with the existing streetscape. This entrance will be somewhat traditional, as it will give access to the Office of Student Affairs and student government offices on the upper floor of the building. The side of the building facing the center of campus and Johns Auditorium is expected to be the primary entrance for students. It will open into an expansive, two-story room with comfortable seating areas to facilitate spontaneous conversations and relaxed gatherings and will flow toward the building’s primary attractions.
Students have had considerable input into the project. For example, in the early planning stages, they were asked to send comments by text message while they had lunch in the dining hall. All along the way, students and faculty have been invited to presentations about the student center and asked for their comments.
“The architects (Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas + Company), whom we selected because they have so much experience with student facilities, have been strong advocates for the students,” says KC Ramsay, an architect who is managing the design for the College. “Even if the students haven’t spoken up about something, the architects have said diplomatically, ‘It has been our experience in other places that that’s not such a great idea.’
“It turns out that the building will be full of great ideas. It will be home to the Tiger Inn, campus store, post office, and a host of other student-centric facilities. It will also have flexible spaces that can be used by student clubs and organizations for meetings, speakers, and performances. The current concept even features a small fitness center to augment the existing fitness center in Kirby Field House.
“The architects want to provide spaces that can be used for a variety of things,” says Ramsay. “Clubs probably won’t have dedicated offices, but they can have lockable storage and meeting rooms available to them. The concept even has a theatre, which is more like a large home theatre than anything else, with seating for about 60 people in large, comfortable chairs. In terms of décor, there will be many digital displays, as well as artwork, some permanent and some changing.”
On the rear of the building will be a “campus living room” that overlooks Chalgrove Lake. The idea is for this room to have large windows on three sides, comfortable seating throughout, and a welcoming stone fireplace. This casual environment will likely be a popular spot on campus.
Construction of the student center is expected to cost $15 million. The Board of Trustees has decided that the final architectural design will not be drawn until 60-percent of the cost has been collected in gifts or pledges. Once the College has sufficient money in hand to begin and the final design is completed, construction should take about 18 months. The College also plans to raise an additional $4 million for an operational endowment for the building. The current fundraising and construction schedule has the building ready for students in 2017.
President Christopher B. Howard says, “This student center represents the College’s commitment to the quality of student life on campus. Not only will this building give students—and the rest of the College community—a central place to see others during the day, but also a place for student activities in the evenings. Also, as our enrollment has grown, it is necessary to facilitate student interaction and to help students find others with common interests. This building will help us do that.”