Our committee of students, staff, and faculty are working to develop plans for the Davis Center Building Project for Jenness House, Hardy House, and Rice House. The three-building complex currently houses and supports the Davis Center (formerly the Multicultural Center), the Office of Special Academic Programs, and several affinity groups. We are thrilled to be working on new and remodeled space for these constituents and more.
The Davis Center Initiative comprises not just the building project but also its programs more broadly.
Powerpoint presentation on site, landscape, exterior materials, and interior finishes
Fly through from Hopkins Gate
Fly through from Walden St
Powerpoint presentation on building sustainability.
President Mandel responds to Alumni Against Anti-Blackness
Excerpt from the President’s letter:
Our Office of Institutional Diversity, Equality and Inclusion, headed by Vice President Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes ’99, has helped expand the vision of what such work entails, including a broader campus role for the Davis Center in its soon-to-be enhanced facility, and a more expansive scope that includes efforts to address anti-Black racism, institutional history and restorative work, among other topics. I’d welcome your thoughts about how alumni could contribute to these and other initiatives.
Last month, I was captivated by National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman’s words at the Inauguration, including this passage: “And yes we are far from polished, far from pristine/but that doesn’t mean we are/striving to form a union that is perfect/We are striving to forge a union with purpose.”
I believe we’re striving to forge a “union with purpose” here at Williams, too. Not all of the elements are in place yet. But the readiness with which Williams alumni embrace your role in the project, evidenced by your letter, counts among our most precious assets in the quest.
Davis Center Project Summary
Background: The Way We Were
Since Williams’ founding, each generation has advanced the work of those who came before them to create, sustain, and support the diverse community that comprises the college. The need for dedicated spaces for groups that are under-represented on campus has always existed. Throughout its history, the college has tried–with varying degrees of success–to care for ALL members of the community. As the college population has evolved, the students, faculty, and staff needs have also evolved and we aim to build the structures–both physical and programmatic–required to meet their needs today and try to anticipate the future.
Since the matriculation of Gauis Charles Bolin in 1885 through the graduation of the first women to today’s commitment to recruiting and retaining first-generation college students, Williams has moved from a single-sex, predominantly white institution to a multi-racial, multi-ethnic college with international and domestic students from diverse religions, socioeconomic backgrounds, gender identities, and sexual orientations. What unites today’s students? Motivation, talent, and deep curiosity.
The Davis Center’s physical space–familiar to some 20th-century grads as the Multicultural Center–comprises three buildings: Rice, Hardy, and Jenness Houses. Some alumni credit these buildings as the place where they found a home at Williams starting with their first days on campus and continuing all the way through to commencement.
Williams’ increasingly diverse and engaged community, along with an expanded vision of the Davis Center’s role, have stretched the capacity of these older buildings to the limit. The investment in the reconstruction, renovation, and expansion of this critical space will help ensure a broader, richer, and deeper experience for tomorrow’s students.
President Mandel’s goal is to ensure Williams goes beyond inclusion by providing every student the opportunity to experience a fundamental sense of belonging on campus and ownership of the college. For some populations, the Davis Center is the first stop on that journey.
Charting a Course: Predesign
To start, the project committee and design team embarked on a six-month pre-design journey gaining critical information through in-person meetings, interviews, and workshops. They listened to stakeholders, observed current use and needs, and worked to understand what the Center means to students. Concurrent with this listening tour, they surveyed the existing DC buildings and found them sadly lacking.
This research and analysis led to a plan to preserve both Rice and Jenness Houses, and construct a major new additional structure to house the large program spaces needed and connect the two preserved buildings.
Making Headway: Schematic Design
For the schematic design phase which began in fall 2020, the full project committee comprising students, staff, and faculty joined the design team to generate ideas and build consensus. They sought to address the Davis Center’s mission of inclusion, equity, and diversity; meet the rigorous sustainability goals of Living Building Challenge Petal certification; and achieve the college’s stringent energy use targets. Key issues and design motifs central to a successful Davis Center design include:
- Shift the center of gravity on campus
- Create spaces/landscapes students can claim and adapt
- Celebrate different cultures, different expression than Euro-centric campus
- Reclaim history and memories that have been unclaimed or erased–ground this project in the history of Williamstown, Williams College, and minority communities
The design team has integrated these ideas into the design of the Davis Center buildings and site, expressing the values of the Davis Center program through its architectural and landscape design, and creating a coherent, connected complex tying together the existing Rice and Jenness Houses, with the new addition through scale, color, and material choice.
Keeping Eyes on the Prize
The people, the programs, and the place comprising the Davis Center are each essential to supporting and engaging nearly half of the student body. Now is the time for Williams to invest in this crucial component of our mission.
The refurbished Davis Center provides a unique challenge and opportunity to address a centuries-old schism and to create a safe, inclusive and empowering multicultural space academically, physically, and co-curricularly for 21st-century learners.
With modernized space built for the community’s needs, the Davis Center will be a vastly more effective hub for education, activism, community building, academic exploration, celebration, and support for underrepresented students.
Davis Center project reactivated after pause due to pandemic
Sample Programming Diagram to help define both the needs of the Center and the level of public interaction anticipated. Learn more at the Town Hall Public Forum about the Planning of the New Davis Center – 2/10/20
Davis Center Building Project Space opens at 36 Spring Street
October 1, 2019