Academic Spaces

Overarching Goals

Recognizing that the excellence of our academic program is dependent on the appropriateness of the facilities that support them, we have identified four core buildings on the central campus—Magill, Old Gym, Union/Roberts, and Sharpless—that badly need renovation and in some cases repurposing. The work of the Academic Space Planning Committee (ASPC) has aimed to map this recuperation of our physical endowment in ways that strengthen the College’s strategic planning goals, focusing in part on supporting the disciplinary core of the academic program. Building projects directly tied to this programmatic element include renovation of music spaces, biology spaces, and psychology spaces. Second, Haverford is particularly recognized for its strength in interdisciplinary and cross-­disciplinary scholarship and curricular programming, the area highlighted in, but not limited to, the constellations identified above. This interdisciplinary strength will be supported by the renovations of Magill, Old Gym, and Sharpless, which together present new trans-­divisional and multi-­media research and teaching opportunities. We also face a unique opportunity to consider these four projects as a whole; where possible, architectural and landscaping themes are being considered to reveal the scholarship that lies within these structures, and to achieve enlivened harmonies across the campus’s central quads.

Thus the task of the ASPC has been to create a plan to attend to the physical needs of key academic buildings while also designing spaces that will advance the aims of our academic programs for many years. The following principles have been established for meeting these needs:

  • Technology-­infused facilities that provide faculty the modern resources to interrogate texts, art objects, and other visual and acoustical resources
  • Increased visibility and illumination of critical resources for disciplinary and cross-­disciplinary scholarly ambitions
  • Enhanced facilities to support formal and informal engagement across faculty, student, and staff cohorts


The programmatic needs for the Music Department have been clearly articulated over the last two years, with special emphasis on the creation of state-­of-­the art facilities for the study of music (as praxis, and as a mode of inquiry) in the liberal arts. It will be a home for serious study and musical encounters for the entire College community. We aim to create spaces for:

  • Private Study: with comfortable, welcoming rooms for individual practice, and in a new Music Library that will array a first-­class collection of scores, books, and sound recordings alongside spaces for reading and collaboration;
  • Rehearsal and Creation: with dedicated spaces for our small and large ensembles, and for using equipment suitable for projects of audio-­visual documentation of performances and work with legacy a/v formats;
  • Shared Experience: with acoustically flattering spaces for workshops with visiting artists, and intimate performances by student chamber ensembles and student composers.


A modern and forward-­looking library moves from the traditional repository paradigm to a central academic space of activity and intellectual engagement. There is a collective and urgent sense from the community that our library does not meet the needs of scholarly practices today. Given its central place on campus, revitalizing the physical endowment of the library will meet critical goals to increase active scholarly engagement within this location, and throughout our community.

  • Planning for a renovated library envisions appropriate teaching spaces, event space, centralized access for students to subject specialists, quiet reading rooms, and social spaces, as well as a café that fosters community and intellectual exchange, keeping in mind that some spaces will be available 24/7.
  • The library is expanding its capacity to support reading, writing, creating, curating and preserving by embracing digital and multimedia environments. The new spaces will allow librarians to play a key role in developing best practice for bringing together the traditional and digital skills of scholarship through direct engagement with faculty and students.
  • Spaces for Special Collections are being designed to make these resources more accessible to the community. Further, these rare materials, coupled with the digital and secondary texts, will allow enhanced multi-modal learning already underway on campus.

Visual Culture, Arts, and Media (Old Gym)

The interdisciplinary Visual Culture, Arts, and Media (VCAM) facility will house the John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities (HCAH) and provide a vibrant, flexible, intellectual and creative working space for students, faculty and the public. Building out from the current array of HCAH programming, internships and scholarly initiatives, the space will encourage diverse activities in visual culture: film, social documentary, exhibitions, and multi-­media fabrication. Enhancing student opportunities for civic engagement, professional praxis, and trans-­divisional collaboration, the complex of classrooms, media labs, presentation spaces, and informal meeting areas will also serve as a lively corridor between the lower and upper campuses.

The facility:

  • will foster an environment where artistic experimentation, professional productions, curricular activities, workshops, and informal conversation intermingle. Social and work spaces will offer 24/7 and year-­round access and opportunities for interactions between faculty and students outside of regular course or office hours.
  • will strengthen the vibrant co-curricular presence of the John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities and will benefit from the Center’s strong tradition of programming across the disciplines and divisions.
  • will share with the Haverford community and the public work that will prompt continued discussion and cultural enrichment.

Spaces/programming (19,000+ sq. feet) elements include:

  • Digital editing lab and sound studio, hacker-‐maker space, and media installation area
  • classrooms with build-­ins for exhibition and production pedagogy, exhibition labs, white spaces for pop-­‐up exhibitions and project development, visible storage (arts/artifacts)
  • faculty offices, HCAH offices and seminar room
  • Screening/performance venue, reception area
  • Multi-­use lounge area, informal gathering spaces

Biology & Psychology

Sharpless is shared between Biology and Psychology. The building’s facilities are both outdated and inadequate, and no longer able to meet the departments’ pedagogical needs. A thorough engineering study, published in 2009, proposed a deep renovation of building systems. In addition, programming goals are being refined. The types of facility upgrades that the two departments require can be summarized as follows:

  • • The building will receive both technology and facilities upgrades such as new networking and classroom technologies, and electrical, HVAC, and plumbing systems. Both Biology and Psychology rely heavily on the experimental method in their research, and these various problems severely compromise the ability (and need) to conduct research within a well-controlled environment.
  • • A new floor plan has been designed to support the collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of Biology. Research spaces in Psychology are being redefined to express a growth in this major and in an increasing emphasis on experimental work. In supporting these evolving practices, the Sharpless renovation should be seen as the completion of the KINSC vision.
  • • Informal spaces, such as student lounges and alcoves with whiteboards, in which students can gather to converse, work collaboratively or individually, and interact with both faculty and staff will be emphasized. Classroom spaces will be renovated.