The campus planning committee convened for the first time this year to discuss the renewal of the campus master plan with Chicago-based architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). The firm worked with the College on the upgrades of the first year bricks in 2007 as well as the construction of West and Osher Halls in 2005. The college last updated the master plan in 2011. 

The committee is comprised of members of the faculty, staff, administration and student representatives Grace Butler ’16 and Kevin Hernandez ’18. 

The committee first analyzes the existing plan, contextualizing it with the current needs of campus. 

“We have to check in and make sure that that’s still what we want, if it fits the needs of the college and everybody who’s living in it,” said Butler. “We get to provide input and it’s the fun, qualitative side of the process.”

In these initial stages of the renewal process, the committee and SOM also envision what the needs of the campus will look like in five, 10 and 15 years. 

“What do we want to do to remain a preeminent, deeply relevant, very special liberal arts college? That necessarily is going to challenge us to ask questions about what it is we’ll do in the classroom, how we’ll learn, what kind of learning spaces we’ll want to have,” said President Clayton Rose.

SOM—whose other projects include One World Trade Center in Manhattan and Burj Khalifa in Dubai, as well as other internationally prominent buildings and several college and high school campuses—works with the committee to “take a step back and look at the big picture,” according to Butler. 

“[We consider] what are our values as a community and how does that translate into the built environment,” she said.

Rose visited the firm in June of this year to meet the architects. 

“One of the interesting things I learned is that a great architect and a great architectural firm does not think about buildings per say,” Rose said. “What they think about is what is your intellectual mission, what are your culture and values and what is it about physical space that enhances that and makes that possible and strengthens it.”

According to Butler, the committee approaches these broader questions by first gauging “a sense of what it is that people who use the campus want out of it, and how to make a plan and a statement of what the campus should look like moving forward.” 

Members of the committee contribute their own perceptions of the needs of the campus, as well as their impressions of what the Bowdoin community needs from the campus. 

“I’m supposed to have a sense of what the whole student body wants,” said Butler. “I don’t know the whole of the student body. There is talk of getting together a student group, but that hasn’t been established yet.”

Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Katy Longley has collaborated with SOM since President Barry Mills renewed the College’s contract with them in 2003. Now, the firm is adjusting to working with a new Bowdoin president. 

“We haven’t engaged [SOM] yet—that was an exploratory meeting and now they’re putting a scope document together and we have to figure out if it aligns with what Clayton wants,” Longley said. 

According to Longley, the first plan must be submitted in time for the meeting of the Board of Trustees in October 2016.

“They’ll be back, we will engage conversations with students, faculty and staff and trustees and alumni and this will be part of a broader conversation that we will begin sometime next year about our aspirations and priorities for the future,” said Rose.