Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hanover: New Arts Center is Hideous

The Valley News ran a story today on the College's new Visual Arts Center. Construction on the building is scheduled to begin in the Fall of 2009. The building's location—southeast of the Hopkins Center—was chosen specifically to give a more grandiose southern entrance to Dartmouth. The project is not without controversy, as residents (quite rightly) fear that the new arts building will be as aesthetically disturbing as the Hopkins Center.
College officials' upbeat presentation yesterday was a sharp contrast with the negative reviews from members of a Hanover community group the college convenes to discuss potentially sensitive matters.

“I can't be very tactful about it,” said Marilyn “Willy” Black, a former selectwoman and current town moderator who sits on the Dartmouth Liaison Committee. “I just think it's hideous.”

She and other members of the committee said the building's design was panned at a recent session with college officials.

“It doesn't tend to generate a neutral reaction,” said Town Manager Julia Griffin, who said she's not yet decided what she thinks of the design, which she said makes “a big, bold statement.”
The whole story, here.


slate yum said...

Predictable reaction. See if you like their Boston Library here before you decide it's irredeemably ugly. You still might, but it won't be because of the picture, which fails to do it justice.

forgot about the rule said...

As someone said in the DOC thread, welcome to post-parity Dartmouth.

Dartmouth never contemplated ugly buildings or drove out well-liked and accomplished faculty/administrators before, but now that the lawsuit's gone, they're clearly doing this on purpose. Ugly buildings and unpopular personnel cuts all around!

I hear the temperature was also in the high 80s in Hanover last week. Clearly the fault of the board-packing scheme.

Remembered the Rule said...

Forgot the rule:

No one seriously suggests that post-parity Dartmouth is the cause of ugly buildings (commonplace) and driving away (nice phrase for firing) competent administrators (not so common).

But there can be a common antecedent... an entrenched establishment (of administrators and their alumni enablers) that is both behind packing the Board with their own, and behind eliminating threats from alumni without and independent-thinkers within.

wkgmry said...

Want a common thread?

Perhaps the individuals who believe that the controversies raised by petition trustees hurt Dartmouth's prestige are the same image-conscious people who care more about having a big-name architect than what kind of building is designed.

Imp Unity said...


It's these same individuals who give the money to have these ugly buildings named after themselves. What does that tell you?

SAE said...

Wealthy people general have poor taste in institutional architecture?

I lived next to Berry Library for three years, and never got comfortable with how attorcious it looked both outside and in. At least it's not readily visible from the Green.

wot rule? said...

The townspeople already put up with the CVS and the Galleria thing across the street from it -- talk about an ugly gateway, built by townspeople. I don't think they get to complain.

"the" rule said...


The CVS is not new construction but the renovation of the old market. The new Disneyland MainStreet USA construction across the street is in fact a product of the College's real estate office.

Uncle Walt said...

Don't go knocking Mickey's hometown. Cartoons are art too. Very appropriate for the new building design.

wot said...

@ Rule:

The CVS was new construction once. Some non-Dartmouth person built it. Big mistake, makes it hard to complain about Dartmouth without looking like you have a double standard.

The thing across the street I'm talking about is the ugly brick box with a mall inside. It's on the south side of Dorrance. Another Hanover mistake not Dartmouth's fault. There's a biblical proverb about looking to yourself or casting the first stone or something that fits here. Hanover people quoted in the Valley Snooze are trying to hold Dartmouth to a higher standard than they hold themselves.

Lord Dartmouth said...

"Hanover people quoted in the Valley Snooze are trying to hold Dartmouth to a higher standard than they hold themselves."

What's wrong with that? After all, this is the IVY League and they are a bunch of hicks. Or do two wrongs make a right?

wot said...

They don't sound like a bunch of hicks. They sound like people who want to get something for nothing. They expect little of developers who are not Dartmouth and then turn around and, when Dartmouth asks their opinion, expect unreasonable concessions from Dartmouth just because it makes a big target.

If Hanover people really cared about how buildings look, they would have an architectural review board like the article says.

Prince Philip said...

One does not need an architectural review board to recognize ugly.

Scott Meacham: You were once an active poster on Dartmouth alumni issues, and you apparently have considerable expertise in the area of the College architecture. What say you?

Scott Bot said...

I wasn't an "active" poster, and I didn't really "post" and to say that I have "expertise" implies that others are not equally excellent, which is an impression that I don't want to give.

In short, the alumni never had parity on the Board and never even "elected" anyone to the Board, they just "nominated" people.

The AoA would have lost the lawsuit. I know it. The lawsuit was frivolous from the start!

Prince Philip said...

Scott Bot: Thank you for your excellent summary of what we all know to be the real Scott's opinion on governance. We were hoping the real Scott would comment on architecture.

prince chas. said...

i think the line is that alumni never *elected* anyone especially not *half* the board and that the law suit is *meritless* not frivolous.....

Old Loyal Alum said...

Scott Bot is right as usual. It is clear that Frank Gado and his Hanover Institute compatriots are now in cahoots with the residents of Hanover to challenge the board of trustees' right to erect any type of building it chooses.

And, come one, next I suppose they will be saying that Harvard was fired to prove that the College is not trying to become a university.

to rule them all said...

Its not true that Frank Gado designed this building!!! Thats a vicious lie.

And in the Darkness Bind Them said...

Of course Gado did not. It was Zywicki!

wot said...

One does not need an architectural review board to recognize ugly. No duh. But one does need an architectural review board to legislate taste. Hanover has not chosen to control the look of new buildings.

big brother said...

" does need an architectural review board to legislate taste."

Just what we need... a government body or other "civic" group responsible for regulating taste. Do they only do buildings? What about dress codes for the residents?

thought police next said...

Do I have this right. Hanover's residents are at fault for Dartmouth's taste for ugly buildings, because the town has failed to organize a group of taste regulators? This blog amazes.

Le Corbusier said...


Is this building a butt-ugly piece of architecture like Berry Library (I can't decide whethrr that eyesore looks like a county hospital or a prison)or does it add anything to Hanover?

Any thoughtful thoughts?

Uninfomred alumnus said...

Wot says: Hanover should legislate against Dartmouth's bad taste. OK, but where did the bad taste come from?

How much do we want to rely on Hanover? They arrest all the drunk kids now. Isn't that too much?

Isn't it time someone from Dartmouth stepped up and did something right?

Well, at least something the four alums here thought was right? Maybe we should run for the Board of Trustees. Oh wait, it was just a dream...

I'm writing to my alumni councilor.

Dartmouth PTA committee said...

Dartmouth is not a local middle school where bored parents can join the school board and direct its affairs. It's an internationally-known American university, a multi-billion dollar institution of higher education, and a private one, at that. Get over it. Go annoy your kids. (They might be smoking the pot.)

another uneducated alum said...

To the PTA:
Are the boards of private multi-billion dollar institutions accountable to no one? Parents can hold a school board accountable. Who holds the Dartmouth board accountable?

Are parents only involved in school affairs because they are "bored", and not because they care about educating their children?

Have Dartmouth alumni decided they are OK with less involvement because they are too busy with other things and not bored, or because they do not care how others educate the next generation?

I'm also writing my alumni councilor, if I can figure out who he or she is.

Prince Philip said...

@ le corbusier, re your two questions:

Yes, No.

Cancel that No. The building does add something... a furtherance of Hanover's progress to becoming a large metropolis. The HoP and the Hood look like NYC, but at least they were situated for the most part off the streets and behind the scenes, except for the HoP entry. This new building is intended to be a prime "gateway".

Philip's Secretary said...

"I declare this thing open—whatever it is."

Attributed to Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh (1921 - )

Opening a new annex at Vancouver City Hall.

Charles, Prince of Wales said...

Hey, I'm the prince of architecture. My thoughts from a prior speech:

"As important as creativity is in all aspects of life, I simply do not see why it should be used as an excuse to sacrifice literally thousands of years of continuity with tradition in the process. In this regard, the desperate obsession with being �modern� seems rather old-fashioned � after all Modernism is only a style. But why can�t we be obsessed with being, above all, �human?� That way, I believe, lies true modernity since the process of life itself involves a subtle balance between the past and the future. Most of us need roots and a sense of belonging in order to feel some degree of security and meaning. Our built environment best enshrines that psychological need in a physical form. And in a world dependent on technology, surely we need a contrast in our surroundings that reflects our innate humanity and not just a continuity of the DVD player or the lap-top computer?"

So what in this new Dartmouth arts building has roots to the past, revealing our humanity?

a nonymous said...

We've been through this about 'Who holds the Dartmouth board accountable?' already. The attorney general does, same as any private nonprofit. What you are really asking, uneducated alum, is 'how can those who disagree with the board reverse its decisions?' The answer, same as for any private nonprofit, is that you can't, and in the grand scheme of things you wouldn't want to be able to anyway. Boards would have no purpose if their corporations were run by the public, or a mob.

Cotton Mather said...

Well-said, a-nonymous.

As for the Prince of Wales, your opinions on architecture are known. That said, some modern buildings are quite stunning. The Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris comes to mind, as does a few of the newer buildings at MIT (I forget the name of the architect). Even Harvard's once-terrible fallen-over monstrosity looming above Allston and Brighton has grown on me. The problem is not modern architecture, the problem is bad modern architecture.

As a New Englander myself, also from a traditional New England town, I say to the Hanover residents: aw, shaddup. As others have pointed out, you made no effort to stop CVS, The Gap, Barnes & Noble, and the like from sullying your faux 18th-century façade. Also, Hanover has always come off to me not as a traditional New England town, but rather some strange Disneyland reinterpretation of New England, the wet dream of all of the wealthy spouses-of-doctors-and-professors who have come to inhabit the town. Look around New Hampshire: Hanover it is not.

Fear not, for in the words of Increase Mather: "God Will Deliver New England!"

modernisme said...

@ Prince: The building is made of stone. Building with stone from quarries is an ancient tradition that reveals our humanity.

traditionisme said...

Now I get the "granite in our brains" line.

worrywart said...

The Visual Arts Center is trifling. It is the Thayer Dining Hall building you should be worrying about.

power leveling said...

I got to play Assassin's Creed which kind of disappointed me. There is some great work in there, great work. The art is fantastic...the levels in that game are huge. The free running things works really well and feels wow power leveling great to control, though after awhile the joy and awe kind of wares off. I hated the story...the whole setting kind of frustrated me. I was so completely looking forward to playing as an assassin during the Crusades. When I first heard the wow powerleveling concept for the game and awe the screenshots I was pretty jazzed. That excitement was quickly smothered when I found out I was a descendant of Altair and I was in a simulation. Great...a game within a game. That really kind of spoiled the whole thing for me. I played about halfway through the game before I completely stopped. I think the wow gold sequel that is inevitably going to get made will be pretty good...though I think they have kind f locked themselves into the whole genetic memory story thread. There is some really great stuff in that game, but the story, and combat really kind of killed it for me. The combat is still not that great of an improvement over the POP stuff. It is decent, but it feels like it could be so much better if they would just give the power leveling player more control over the character.

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