“What does the library of the 21st century look like?” asked Barnard president Debora Spar at one of a series of strategic planning sessions begun four years ago to determine the College’s needs for future growth and continuation of the highest academic standards. The campus community and visitors will see the answer to Spar’s question by the summer of 2018: a cutting-edge 128,000-square foot teaching and learning center (TLC) that will rise on the site of Lehman Hall. The new complex embraces changes that new technologies and media have brought to higher education and the many ways teaching, learning, and research are conducted with these new learning tools. (Please read Spar’s letter on page 3.)

When it opened in April 1960, Lehman Hall was hailed as Barnard’s first major campus addition since 1926. Rising to four stories and including one level below ground, the building devoted three floors and 65,000 square feet to storing 150,000 volumes. Within Lehman, the Wollman Library capably housed Barnard’s growing collection of books and research materials—until the digital age began challenging its limitations. Renovation was considered, and surveys were conducted, but from all reports it was clear that the renovation price tag would be daunting and the result would only satisfy current needs, providing an insufficient nod to Barnard’s projected future. New construction offered the best solution that balanced needs, costs, and ultimate value.

What the new building will encompass evolved from the strategic planning sessions launched by Spar in 2011. At these meetings, additional space emerged as the overriding concern of faculty, administrative staff, and students. Other pressing needs surfaced. Additions to the must-have list: cutting-edge educational technologies; library facilities in tune with how students study today (online and more collaboratively); and interactive spaces for teaching, learning, and collaborative research between students and faculty. Within the TLC will be a state-of-the art library designed to embrace cutting-edge educational technologies and interactive learning spaces in a four-story base topped by an 11-story tower that aligns with the façade of neighboring Altschul Hall.

The center will include:

  • Five innovative labs—for movement, digital humanities, creativity, multimedia, and empirical reasoning—that will comprise a digital commons
  • A computational science center established for research-focused students and faculty across disciplines
  • Technologically up-to-date classrooms flexibly designed for seminars and large-group instruction, plus a variety of study areas for individual and group student use
  • New homes for the Barnard Center for Research on Women and the Athena Center for Leadership Studies, plus conferencing facilities linked to meeting and event spaces in The Diana Center
  • Departmental offices for economics, history, political science, and urban studies
  • Accessible outdoor terraces plus an intimate café

Throughout the two-plus years of demolition and construction, campus life and learning will continue uninterrupted. The College’s 20,000 most-circulated books have been transferred to the fourth floor of Columbia’s Butler Library where they can be available to Barnard students, staff, and faculty while the new facility is being built. The remainder of Barnard’s stored books will be inaccessible throughout the construction period, but its archival book collections will be retrievable weekly. In addition, the Columbia library’s 4.6 million books and archives will be available via the university’s online retrieval system.

Facilities are already under construction at various campus sites for programs and activities displaced when Lehman Hall closes. The creation of the two-story LeFrak Center, formerly the LeFrak Gymnasium, will become temporary quarters for the library and several academic departments, and is one of the most innovative designs for the reuse of a space. (See page 21 for construction photos and renderings.)

Women Take the Lead in Major Campus Construction

Three women direct teams involved with Barnard’s campus construction and renovations: architect Heidi Blau, architect and project manager Meredith Bostwick-Lorenzo Eiroa, and construction manager Suzanne Castellano. All three have decades of experience managing complex, multifaceted building projects. While each plays a different role, they are tasked with ensuring that every element of the work—from the installation of the HVAC system in LeFrak Center to the placement of digital screens in the TLC—is executed with timeliness, accuracy, and precision.

Before construction begins on the TLC, the College had to create a new space for the people and programs housed in Lehman Hall, which includes the staff of the Wollman Library. Throughout the fall, crews have been busy turning LeFrak Gymnasium into LeFrak Center to house academic departments and a temporary library. Heidi Blau, a partner at FXFOWLE Architects, led the team of architects and designers who conceived this renovation. A strong proponent of a liberal-arts education, Blau is excited to be part of creating the “spaces where people can learn and interact with each other, and all of this interdisciplinary work that’s going on.” A Smith College graduate, Blau says, “The opportunity to work with one of the sister schools is wonderful.” She is also active with initiatives to attract and retain women in architecture, serving on the diversity task force for the New York State chapter of the American Institute of Architects. “Having different ideas put forward just enriches what we do as architects. It’s enriching to the people and it’s enriching to the project.”

Considering different ideas has been essential to the development of the TLC, says architect Bostwick-Lorenzo Eiroa of SOM, architects of the TLC. As the project manager, she is in charge of listening to the Barnard community’s needs, then communicating them to the architects. “Our mandate was to be a collaborative team player with multiple constituents,” she explains. She finds working with Barnard inspirational. “The TLC has been shaped by many great women who have been integral in thinking about the vision of what the architecture would be. It’s not often that you get to work with so many great women leaders, designers, and educators.” Bostwick-Lorenzo Eiroa works closely with SOM partner Roger Duffy, the lead designer. “Getting to this design has been iterative and collaborative in ways that are unique,” Duffy says.

Then there are the nuts and bolts—literally—of this major campus construction, overseen by project executive Suzanne Castellano of Turner Construction, the general contractor building both the LeFrak Center and the TLC.

“The architect and the design engineers put together the drawings, then write contracts to buy the work specified in the drawings, along with the engineering and installations,” she explains. “My job is basically to make sure that the boat stays on course and to get us to completion.”

After earning a mechanical engineering degree, Castellano launched her career by working for utility companies. She transitioned to construction management in 1994, and except for a three-year hiatus, has worked for Turner for more than 20 years. While the construction field mostly attracts men, that is changing rapidly, per Castellano. “There are more women being hired,” she says. “You still come across people who you have to prove yourself to, but younger people don’t think twice about working with a woman.”