Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.

Beloved UEL threatened by Brown's expansion

The Changing Face of Campus: Third in a Series

The future of the Urban Environmental Laboratory, a distinctive converted carriage house in the middle of campus, is in jeopardy as the University pushes forward with its physical expansion plans.

The UEL, home to the Center for Environmental Studies, will remain in its current location at 135 Angell St. for at least the next five to 10 years, said Richard Spies, executive vice president for planning and senior advisor to the president. But the University's master plan identifies the UEL site as a possible site for the construction of a larger building.

One of the goals of the master plan, officially known as the Strategic Framework for Physical Planning and adopted by the Brown Corporation in 2003, is to "consolidate the core" of campus - in other words, to use space in the heart of campus more efficiently.

Spies said it was "premature" to discuss whether the UEL will be moved to a different site or torn down altogether, though he said "we'll have a discussion about" the building's historical value before a decision is made.

Patti Caton '92 MA'02, administrative manager of the Center for Environmental Studies, said staff who work in the UEL have been told the building won't exist in 10 to 15 years.

Caton said she is "very much attached to the building," explaining that she first discovered the UEL when she was a Resumed Undergraduate Education student in 1989 and that the space contributed to her decision to concentrate in environmental studies.

"I felt so good when I had my class in this building," Caton said. "It turns the students and faculty into a real community."

Professor Emeritus of Environmental Studies Harold Ward, who founded the center in 1978 and served as its director until 2004, said he would be upset to see the building go. He said students and faculty in the department renovated the UEL for use by the center when the University acquired the building in 1981.

"I was the one who renovated the building in the first place. ... We wouldn't be allowed to do that now," Ward said.

Before the property was acquired by the University, it was a carriage house that held horses and carriages. The basement of the building - now graduate student offices - was a stable, as evidenced by the original brick archways still in place. Ward said "the second floor was still filled with barley and hay" when it was renovated to become the UEL.

The UEL was designed to be "a model house to show what can be accomplished in an urban environment with a solar greenhouse, insulation, water-conserving plumbing, and a recycling facility," according to Encyclopedia Brunoniana.

"At the time, it was a state-of-the-art, efficient, sustainable building," Ward said.

Caton said the UEL used to feature a heating system that used warm air from the building's greenhouse to heat the rest of its rooms. "It was so effective that the gas company came over once to replace our meter. They thought it was broken because we used it so rarely," she said.

The UEL also originally contained student housing, in addition to offices and classrooms for the environmental studies center.

Even though the UEL is no longer used for housing, it still contains vestiges of dorm life. A kitchen is still used by members of the center, and living room space is currently being converted into offices for new faculty members.

Ward said he believes these renovations are unnecessary and harm the building's character. "They're chopping it up with no concern for the history of the building," he said. "We have an administration without concern for those things."

Caton said that though she understands the UEL is "not as efficient a use of space as a big brick building," she believes there is value in having unique spaces on campus. Ward echoed this sentiment, saying "students like having a space that's theirs."

Laura Genello '07, an environmental studies concentrator, said the UEL fosters community and is valuable to the center. "You get a real connection with the faculty and students in the department due, in large part, to the building. It's a great place to work and hang out," she said. "I think most (environmental studies) majors share my sentiments."

Genello contrasted the community atmosphere of the UEL with that of larger departments, saying she feels much less of a connection with students and faculty in the much larger biology department.

Regardless of the future of the UEL, the adjacent community garden will remain and be incorporated into the Walk, the planned footpath stretching from Lincoln Field to the Pembroke Campus. The garden is managed by the Center for Environmental Studies but cultivated by a group of community gardeners that includes students, faculty and College Hill residents.

The site of the garden used to be a parking lot, but the lot was replaced with the garden when the building was renovated, Caton said.


Expansion plans also affect Am Civ house, but Sharpe to remain

Another department stands to lose its current location as the University expands. Norwood House at 82 Waterman St., home to the Department of American Civilization, will be moved to make way for the planned Creative Arts Center. University officials do not know where or when the building will be moved, as planning for the new creative arts building is still in the early stages.

Beverly Haviland, visiting associate professor and senior lecturer in American civilization, wrote in an e-mail to The Herald that she believes a move could benefit the department.

"Am Civ needs more space than is provided by Norwood House, and so, if the building is moved ... I hope that Am Civ would be housed elsewhere," Haviland wrote.

Spies echoed Haviland's sentiments, explaining that moving Norwood House could coincide with relocating the department to a larger space.

Sharpe House, one of two buildings that house the Department of History, will not be affected by construction of the Walk, Spies said. Instead, the house, which is located at 130 Angell St., will be integrated into the Walk. "It will have a better view after (the Walk is) done, but it'll be there," Spies said.



Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Brown Daily Herald, Inc.