reed magazine logospring2007
New bridge rendering

The two support piers for the new cross-canyon bridge will stand outside the riparian zone around Crystal Springs Creek. The bridge will not require painting, and will be equipped with low-energy lighting.

this new 'old' house

REED’S NEW RESIDENCE HALL construction will conclude in early 2009 with completion of a new language house at the southeast end of campus near Woodstock Boulevard. The existing buildings became language houses in the 1970s, after several 1920s-era faculty houses designed by A.E. Doyle were turned into dorms. Today, the buildings each house fewer than 10 students, and offer a place where those interested in Spanish, German, French, Russian, or Chinese can live together and develop language proficiency. The houses hold weekly dinners and movie nights, and also host campus-wide celebrations such as Chinese New Year and Oktoberfest.

The newest language house will become home to the Spanish-speakers, allowing residents of the Chinese house, now located at the opposite end of campus, to join the cluster along Woodstock Boulevard.

While still relatively small, the new Spanish house—with 17 single rooms on three floors—will be about double the size of the existing language houses. Portland architects Hennebery Eddy designed the new building in dialog with the older structures crowded on the site. “Simply copying the style of the 1920s would not have been good design,” says Alan Osborne, the partner heading the project. “We’re working with traditional forms, but with a contemporary look.”

The new Spanish house will offer shared living and dining rooms, and a kitchen on the first floor, with bedrooms and study areas situated on the second and third floors. There will also be offices for language scholars and programming space to serve all the other language houses. And again, there is a cost to going small and providing so much space per student—approximately $3.5 million for the entire construction project.

Is Reed a happier, healthier place now that more students sleep and wake on campus each day than they did a few decades ago? And will it be happier still once more students have the option to live on campus for more of their college years?

Thanks in part to the Gray Fund, an endowment that supports a wide range of cultural, social, and recreational programs, student participation in campus activities is way up. The playing fields are busier than ever, with teams of students playing rugby, ultimate frisbee, and pickup soccer games. Student baristas will soon be pulling double-shot lattés at three different campus coffee shops. And the college’s “day dodger” days are ancient history.

Rendering of new Spanish house

Architectural rendering of the new Spanish House near Woodstock Boulevard. While substantially larger than the existing language houses, it is designed to blend in. (Courtesy of Hennebery Eddy Architects)


Today’s students have more reasons than ever to want to live on campus—and the college wants that experience to be a memorable one, enhancing community and enriching academic life.

Diver sees it as building “esprit de corps.” His own fond memories of Amherst College are framed by his time living in the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity with 30 brothers. “The kinds of bonds you can forge in college are lasting,” he says. “The fact that I lived in a fraternity was incidental. The important thing was that we all felt like we were living together in a house.”

The key, Diver says, is to provide students with a variety of residential options. While the new houses are designed to draw the same kinds of crowds as Anna Mann and Old Dorm Block, there are still plenty of students who favor the institutional layout and contemporary features of Bragdon, Sullivan, and Naito, opened in the late 1990s. Others find a certain utilitarian appeal in the squat, modernist “asylum blocks”—Foster, Scholz, and MacNaughton—insisting that the long narrow corridors are conducive to social interaction because students can’t leave their rooms without running into somebody they know.

For all the money and effort being spent on stucco and lumber, roof tiles and shrubbery, the ultimate measure of the new residence halls’ success won’t come from what the architecture critics say. It will come from students themselves: whether they like living there, and whether they feel like they’re living in dorms or homes.

A.E. Doyle would have understood the notion well. In a eulogy delivered when Doyle died in 1928—just a few years after designing the much-beloved Anna Mann—President Norman Coleman summed up the architect’s lasting impact on the Reed campus this way: “His chief joy was in the creation of forms of lasting beauty which would be good to live with.” It’s a legacy that today’s architects of Reed would like to emulate.