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New Barker Center Nears Completion

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

This is not your grandfather's Freshman Union. Smoking jackets and cigars are gone. However, underneath all the scaffolding and dust, remnants of the old Freshman Union permeate the modernity of the new Barker Center for the Humanities.

The controversial Great Hall, in which first-years dined for decades, is now partitioned into two seminar rooms and an impressive atrium. A glass-walled hallway will divide the space, but each room preserves much of the feel of the old Union. The original wood panelling still covers the walls of the seminar rooms, and the giant fireplaces at either end look even more imposing within the smaller confines.

The atrium, which features an open staircase down to the basement and up towards the skylights in the ceiling, provides a centralized, airy meeting place for students and faculty.

Even the elk-horned chandelier, which college lore attributes to Theodore Roosevelt, Class of 1880, will hang in the complex in newly- restored splendor.

Outside of the imposing central space of the Barker Center, most of the building is divided into well-lit, conveniently organized departmental offices, lounges, and reception areas with large windows overlooking Cambridge.

The long hallways which, according to Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles, "seduce [students] to [their] professor's office," have rooms sprouting off them left and right.

In addition, there are plans for shared computer and seminar rooms.

Scheduled for completion in the spring of 1997, the complex will house about a 100 faculty members, department offices, seminar rooms and a cafe.

While the Barker Center is not intended to replace the classroom space of Sever or Emerson, it will provide additional rooms for smaller seminars, as well the large meeting rooms in the former Great Hall, according to Elizabeth L. Randall, capital project manager in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

The second floor overlooks new copper roof of the rotunda, shining in the light of the setting sun.

Climbing the soon-to-be-carpeted fire-escape staircases to the third floor, the dark rooms are illuminated by "home-plate" shaped windows which peer towards the ivory towers of Dunster and Lowell.

Finally, the fourth floor, which will house the religion department, is characterized by a large skylight-covered ceiling and a seminar room with cathedral ceilings.

The ground floor, or "garden level," of the Barker Center lined with offices and lockers for graduate students, replaces the once seldom-used recreational room of the Union.

The refurbishment of the Union was the source of controversy last year when alumni protested the plans, asking that the building be preserved as a historical site.

According to Randall, throughout the renovation process, great care was taken to uncover rather than demolish the history of the building. Ancient wall panels which could not remain in their original locations will be reused in other areas. Large, picturesque beams, now exposed to the light, and slanting ceilings give the building a distinctive character evocative of its past.

In the adjoining Burr Hall, a library for the African-American Studies Department conveniently opens onto a balcony overlooking the entrance of the Barker Center, with its new handicap-access ramp.

According to Randall, Burr Hall had a lot of structural defects, not evident until it was stripped, which hampered the renovation process.

The perilously ancient elevator, that students may remember from the old building, will be replaced by a completely new one on the other end of the building. The fire stairs have also been moved to allow for more window space in offices.

Perched atop the Barker Center for the Humanities is a white fenced cupola, strikingly picturesque beside the postmodern architecture of the Carpenter Center. According to Randall, the new cupola echoes a feature of the original plans of the old Union. Randall, who also worked on the restoration of Matthews Hall, said renovating the Barker Center has been a fulfilling experience.

"It's been fun to watch it come together," said Randall

In addition, there are plans for shared computer and seminar rooms.

Scheduled for completion in the spring of 1997, the complex will house about a 100 faculty members, department offices, seminar rooms and a cafe.

While the Barker Center is not intended to replace the classroom space of Sever or Emerson, it will provide additional rooms for smaller seminars, as well the large meeting rooms in the former Great Hall, according to Elizabeth L. Randall, capital project manager in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

The second floor overlooks new copper roof of the rotunda, shining in the light of the setting sun.

Climbing the soon-to-be-carpeted fire-escape staircases to the third floor, the dark rooms are illuminated by "home-plate" shaped windows which peer towards the ivory towers of Dunster and Lowell.

Finally, the fourth floor, which will house the religion department, is characterized by a large skylight-covered ceiling and a seminar room with cathedral ceilings.

The ground floor, or "garden level," of the Barker Center lined with offices and lockers for graduate students, replaces the once seldom-used recreational room of the Union.

The refurbishment of the Union was the source of controversy last year when alumni protested the plans, asking that the building be preserved as a historical site.

According to Randall, throughout the renovation process, great care was taken to uncover rather than demolish the history of the building. Ancient wall panels which could not remain in their original locations will be reused in other areas. Large, picturesque beams, now exposed to the light, and slanting ceilings give the building a distinctive character evocative of its past.

In the adjoining Burr Hall, a library for the African-American Studies Department conveniently opens onto a balcony overlooking the entrance of the Barker Center, with its new handicap-access ramp.

According to Randall, Burr Hall had a lot of structural defects, not evident until it was stripped, which hampered the renovation process.

The perilously ancient elevator, that students may remember from the old building, will be replaced by a completely new one on the other end of the building. The fire stairs have also been moved to allow for more window space in offices.

Perched atop the Barker Center for the Humanities is a white fenced cupola, strikingly picturesque beside the postmodern architecture of the Carpenter Center. According to Randall, the new cupola echoes a feature of the original plans of the old Union. Randall, who also worked on the restoration of Matthews Hall, said renovating the Barker Center has been a fulfilling experience.

"It's been fun to watch it come together," said Randall

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