At a press briefing Tuesday, Vice President for Facilities and Services Stu Hain revealed schematic designs for the Danawell Connector construction project. The Connector, which has been an element of Campus Master Plan drafts, will merge Dana and Hallowell dorms by adding a 5-story, ADA-accessible structure with 70-75 beds on the site where the Danawell Trailer sits now.
According to Hain and Dean of Students Liz Braun, the addition will relieve Swarthmore’s at-capacity dorm situation and provide room for what Braun called “a historic trajectory of growth.”
Hain said that the College plans to have the dorm open for occupancy at the start of the 2015 fall semester. The College’s “goal is to start it the day after Alumni Weekend’s over next June,” he said.
The designs, prepared by Jacobs/Wyper Architects of Philadelphia, show four nearly identical floors connected to Dana and Hallowell Halls and filled with doubles, and a fifth, ground-level floor. Braun said that the doubles would help Danawell as a whole reach a more even distribution of students from the four classes.
The lowest level, which Hain referred to as the “garden level,” includes a kitchen, a lounge space, and an outdoor patio, all of which will look out into the woods. There will also be a two-story entrance lobby on the side of Danawell that faces Wharton Hall. The path on this side of the building will be regraded to slope down towards the garden level entrance so that students with disabilities will have easy access. The Connector will also house an elevator.
Braun said the lounge will be a flexible space that will accommodate a wide variety of activities. “One thing we’ve heard from students is consistently wanting a better variety of spaces for socializing on campus,” she said. In the vein of extending physical space, Head explained that by linking each floor of Dana to a floor in Hallowell, each floor will be able to accommodate gender-neutral and gender-specific bathrooms.
The flexible lounge will be larger than Mephistos Lounge in Willets, and it will be nestled behind a spacious two-story lobby that will span the garden and first floor levels. In addition, “every floor there [will be] a lounge in the back right up over the woods,” according to Hain.
Braun said the plan aligns with core principles outlined in the Campus Master Plan, including “a focus on flexibility of space [and] re-using existing space in creative, new ways.” It will also promote sustainability in small ways. He said the structure will be heated by a heat pump, not the steam tunnels, and it will use best-practice insulation.
The College will also take care to remove as few trees as possible in construction and replace all those cut down. Some of the harvested wood will also appear in the project, including potentially in the lobby floor.
The Danawell Connector is the first in a series of projects that constitute Stage I of the Campus Master Plan, according to Hain. The other elements of Stage I are the Matchbox, to be completed next fall, Town Center West, to be completed in spring of 2016, and the new Biology-Engineering-Psychology building, also known as Science Center II. In addition, Hain said, “This summer we’ll do a substantial renovation to Willets, but that won’t be adding any space.”
Note: This article was edited after publication to include the fact that an elevator will be built in the Danawell Connector.