Kautz Admissions House
The current location of the Kautz Admissions House is neither ideal nor functional. The building is hard to find when visitors arrive on campus, and there are a very limited number of parking spaces in front of, or near, the building. Needing to reach these parking spaces generates increased amounts of vehicular traffic through the center of campus, which goes against the stated goals and principles outlined in the "Landscape Master Plan" and the Dober Lidsky Mathey (DLM) report (see Appendix). Furthermore, being of residential scale and design, the building cannot accommodate nor withstand its approximately 20,000 annual visitors. The preferred recommendation put forward in the DLM report is that the College construct a new Admissions Facility near the tennis courts and Collegeview Avenue. This location near the North Lot has suitable parking that could be expanded if necessary, would be easier for visitors to find, and would keep vehicular traffic on the campus periphery. Another added benefit of this option is that campus visitors will be closer to the Arlington Business District, where they will have easy access to restaurants, the Vassar College Store, a potential Vassar Conference Center and Inn (see below) as well as the All College Dining Center. Modifying the vehicular entrance at this edge of campus by aligning the Class of ‘63 North Gate with Fairmont Avenue will provide a smooth and safe entry to campus and enhance ones experience when entering campus along its north edge. This entrance will no longer appear as a service entrance behind Students Building, with awkward and unsafe intersections, but be elevated to a primary entrance by which visitors will experience the intimate connections between the College and surrounding community.
Kendrick House, across Raymond Avenue from Main Gate, has also been suggested as a potential location for the Office of Admissions. Although this location would provide visitors with the experience of walking through Main Gate during their tour of campus, it suffers from insufficient parking and lack of eateries and other amenities that would serve prospective students and their families. Furthermore, crossing Raymond Avenue with large groups of students on a regular basis, though not impossible, is far less than ideal.
Inn and Conference Center
In the last several years, some members of the campus community have expressed an interest in the College exploring the possibility of constructing a new Inn and Conference Center on or near campus. This interest stems in part from the limited amenities and rooms currently available in Alumnae House. A new Inn and Conference Center could also be the venue for meetings and conferences sponsored by members of the college community. Furthermore, a new Inn and Conference Center would be a unique event space for the larger Poughkeepsie and mid-Hudson Valley community. The DLM report suggests several locations for such a facility, including, the Arthur S. May School site, the site of the College's tennis courts, and College land that is adjacent to Alumnae House. The College is also exploring the possibility of attaching the new Inn and Conference Center to the back of Alumnae House. More research and community conversations are needed to determine how an Inn and Conference Center will best serve the programmatic needs of the College and what purpose the current hospitality spaces of Alumnae House will serve in the event a new Inn and Conference Center is constructed.
Designed by Schweikher and Elting with a concrete screen by Erwin Hauer, Chicago Hall is an architecturally significant centrally located academic building. Later renovations to the interior southwest corner of this 1959 structure have detracted from its functionality and design as a home for modern languages. Chicago Hall currently houses five of the college's language programs: French and Francophone, German, Russian, Italian and Hispanic Studies. Arabic, formally part of the Africana Studies Program, also resides in Chicago Hall, having been displaced from New England in 2013. Instruction in Chicago takes a multitude of forms, including performance, group work, cooking, film screenings, and weekly language cafes. However, Chicago Hall presents various challenges, especially insufficient space to accommodate all of the language departments. There is also a lack of flexible and appropriately sized learning spaces for the various kinds of class work and exercises undertaken in the language programs. The College needs to better study how Chicago Hall should be reconfigured and/or how to reorganize the departments in other nearby buildings. For example, office and learning spaces in Rockefeller Hall, freed up when Blodgett Hall is renovated for the social sciences (See Blodgett Hall), could be transformed into flexible space for language teaching and learning. Language departments currently at a distance, such as Chinese and Japanese, which is in Sanders Classroom Building, could also be relocated to Rockefeller Hall even as they remain close to Chicago.
The interior courtyards of Chicago and its eastern entrance have recently been relandscaped, improving the exterior aesthetic of the building. However, significant improvements to the building's heating and ventilation systems and to its envelope are necessary. These needs provide important opportunities for the College to implement sustainable design features and improve the energy efficiency and habitability of an existing building.
Farm and Ecological Preserve
Vassar's Farm and Ecological Preserve, consisting of more than 500 acres within walking distance of campus, is a multi-use natural space supporting a diverse array of College constituencies and activities including athletics, the Environmental Cooperative, student-faculty research and education, and field-work. The Farm and Ecological Preserve is also one of the few campus spaces shared with the broader Poughkeespsie and Hudson Valley community and thus helps to bind these often separate entities together. The Poughkeepsie Farm Project (PFP), and more recently the Student Conservation Association (SCA) and the Environmental Monitoring and Management Alliance (EMMA), are examples of important community collaborations taking place at the Farm and Preserve. Given the increased activity and the tremendous potential of this often overlooked resource, a strategic plan for the use of existing structures as well as the vehicle and pedestrian circulation on the site is being developed. Early results suggest that the dairy barn, a portion of which has been recently renovated, can best serve as an Experiential and Environmental Education Center and that in order to improve the safety and accessibility of the Preserve, vehicles and parking should be kept to the periphery, while pedestrian access should be strengthened, made safer, and be encouraged. Specific suggested changes include relocating the Community Gardens and the PFP distribution center to an easily accessible location closer to Hooker Avenue and all Facilities Operations storage and composting activities to South Campus where the bulk of Facilities Operations is already situated.
An Environmental Education Center would serve as a centralized location that brings together Vassar and regional communities through educational programs. It would “broaden the umbrella” of activities and services offered on the Preserve and widen the spectrum of those who use them. Renovations to the barns might consist of a joint educational meeting and support space, locker rooms for sports teams, seminar and classrooms, a demonstration kitchen, and programming or theater space--ideally incorporating hydroponic and green infrastructure elements. Additional space could be used (with modular walls/furnishings) as a bunkhouse for visiting scientists, professors, speakers, post-bacs, and those who use the learning center as a way to “live and breathe the sustainable intention of the center.” Most importantly, the Center would serve as a hub for curricular activities focused on community engagement, place based learning, and conservation.