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University News

Renovated Metcalf to open in October

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, April 28, 2011

Opening in October, the renovated Metcalf Chemistry and Research Laboratory (above) will house the Department of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences.

The Metcalf Chemistry and Research Laboratory, currently under renovation, will reopen in October as the new home of the Department of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences. The project’s final completion is set for Sept. 30, and the department will move in the next week, said David LaPlante, program manager for Facilities Management. The project is currently on schedule.

The $42 million renovation of the 74,000 square-foot building is progressing “very well,” said Stephen Maiorisi, vice president for the Department of Facilities Management.

The CLPS department was formed by the July 2010 merger of the cognitive and linguistic sciences and psychology departments. “Bringing them together physically was an important part of bringing them together as a department,” said Richard Spies, executive vice president for planning and senior adviser to the president. The consolidation will “move the academic program forward for students and faculty,” he said.

Hunter Laboratory will be mostly vacated when psychology faculty relocate to Metcalf, he said. Administrators are drafting plans to renovate Hunter, a project that “wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t undertake the Metcalf project.”

A possible use for Hunter, once renovated, will be to help house the School of Engineering, which will need more space in the near future due to the University’s commitment to increase the size of the engineering faculty, Spies said. But any use of Hunter for engineering would only be a short-term solution. The University needs a major new facility for engineering, Spies said.

Metcalf’s chemistry and research buildings — built in 1923 and 1938, respectively — are connected by a space that will feature new lounges on each floor and new conference rooms. The design will “give the building a new core, a heart,” LaPlante said. A glass wall will look out onto Lincoln Field, with doors on the other side opening onto a central public courtyard, also accessible from Waterman Street. A glass public art installation will also make for “a great addition,” he said.

The part of the building most frequented by undergraduates will be the 225-seat auditorium — a “state of the art teaching space,” according to the Facilities Management website.

The research building on Lincoln Field will mostly house faculty offices. The chemistry building, which sits on Thayer Street, will consist of laboratories and will also house a departmental library and a skylit “dome room” for faculty conferences, LaPlante said.

The former attic, which held unused exhaust fans, will be transformed into graduate student offices, a graduate student lounge and showers for bicycle commuters. “It’s going to be beautiful up here,” LaPlante said.

Labs and offices have already been assigned to specific faculty members, and labs have been “designed to their specific needs,” he said.

Metcalf will be “very energy, environmentally conscious,” LaPlante said. The goal is to get a LEED Silver rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.

New sidewalks and street trees will be placed around the building, he said, and the portion of Thayer next to Metcalf will also be repaved.

“A mix of gifts and debt” will be pay for the project, Spies said.

The Metcalf renovation was not the first plan for a new home for CLPS. A new building at Angell Street and the Walk, on the site of the Urban Environmental Lab, had previously been proposed to house the new department. But financial realities in 2009 made the cost of a new building prohibitive, and controversy over eliminating or displacing the environmental lab added to the site’s problems. The Corporation approved renovation work on Metcalf at its May 2010 meeting, and work began in June.

Before the renovation, the building was partially vacant and occupied by the Department of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences. Spies described the space as a “good fit” for the merged departments. “It’s good bones, and it’s going to be a great building.”


Check out for photos from The Herald’s hard hat tour of the building.


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