Blodgett Hall opened in 1929 as a multidisciplinary research center and residential community. Since that time, Blodgett has served a variety of institutional purposes, including housing students in a cooperative living environment, hosting the Education program’s library, and its present role as the home to various multidisciplinary programs and social science departments. Blodgett Hall is an architecturally significant building, with an iconic presence on campus, but it is aging, does not conform to ADA accessibility standards, and is in need of a major renovation to support the educational enterprise of a 21st-century liberal arts college. Blodgett’s original architects planned the building in a manner that limits inter-connectivity between the multiple wings; a variety of stairwells, numerous entrances, and multiple floor levels make navigating the building a challenge. Modest renovation and expansion of the basement level to incorporate laboratory spaces for Psychology was undertaken in 1998. Sixteen years later, the Psychology department vacated Blodgett and moved into the newly renovated Olmsted Hall and New England Building as part of the Integrated Science Commons. The partial emptying of Blodgett has afforded the remaining programs in the building an opportunity to reassess their departmental needs for office, teaching, and lab space. A renovated and reinvigorated Blodgett Hall organized as a hub for the Social Sciences would be as important to the College as the work recently done for the Natural Sciences in New England Building and Sanders Physics.
Inclusive Learning Community
A renovated Blodgett Hall will provide space for a new central hub for the Social Sciences at Vassar. The Anthropology, Economics, Political Science, Religion, and Sociology departments are all ideal programs to be housed in this hub. These departments have all expressed interest in a central location for the purpose of facilitating the exchange of ideas. This social science center would provide a space for programming around a theme determined collaboratively by the social science departments on an annual basis. Faculty members in each respective department could host lectures and/or invite a lecturer who contributes to students' thinking about the designated theme throughout the year. This prospective social science center could be combined with a heritage room that includes a small library, archive, and space for collaborative research projects where students and faculty could conduct and transcribe interviews, code data, run data sets, and store and examine archaeological materials, for example.
A modernized Blodgett Hall should include a central gathering space where members of the community can grab a cup of coffee and interact with one another as at the new Bridge for Laboratory Sciences. This new central gathering space could be connected to Blodgett Hall or created as part of a reconfigured central courtyard with an atrium. Within the atrium there could be an area that exhibits the work of faculty and students in the social sciences in order to encourage connections and conversations across the disciplines. These collaborative educational and communal spaces would create a more inclusive learning environment than Blodgett Hall's current circuitous, stagnant, and isolationist configuration. Taken together, such recommendations would transform Blodgett Hall into a desired destination both within the College and for the larger Hudson Valley community.
Given the age and deterioration of Blodgett Hall, there are a variety of sustainability initiatives, beyond new windows, doors, lighting, and plumbing, that can be implemented in order to relaunch the building so that it better aligns with the Vassar Climate Action Plan. Blodgett Hall's location at the periphery of campus, with open space that surrounds the building, now make the building a good candidate to explore geothermal heating and cooling. As noted in the “Green Building Guidelines” report (see the Appendix), geothermal heating and cooling is a renewable form of energy that can help even highly efficient buildings move towards a Net-Zero energy status over time - particularly if they are used in conjunction with solar energy to power the recirculating pumps. Given this potential, the College needs to study the energy needs of the multiple social science programs that might be housed in an integrated social science commons in Blodgett Hall and determine if geothermal energy can fit their needs.
Blodgett’s storm water drainage systems have also long been identified as a source of potential negative impacts on the Casperkill given the building’s proximity to this waterway. To address this challenge, the College should follow the standards developed in the “Vassar College Landscape Master Plan” (See Appendix) and implement natural drainage strategies wherever possible. Developing an integrated green stormwater management system similar to the ones currently near the Vassar Chapel and in front of Sanders Classroom and Sanders Physics and that can filter stormwater flows to reduce sediments and other pollutants, must be explored and utilized in any Blodgett Hall renovation.
The architecture and layout of Blodgett Hall is rooted in the curricular legacy of the multidisciplinary (and now defunct) field of euthenics. Renovation must respect the building’s exterior heritage and character of the architecture while enhancing interior spaces and vertical accessibility. Improving the building’s interior circulation will help create a more pedestrian friendly building that will also improve collaboration and exchange between the various social science departments that might occupy the building. Any renovation plans for Blodgett Hall will also consider the incorporation of the interior courtyard as a potential central meeting and gathering space for the departments housed in the building.