Campus Master Plan update

There is no such thing as a blank sheet of paper …
or, on the way to developing a Campus Master Plan we still had things that needed to be done.

As stated in the Strategic Plan we have embarked on a Campus Master Plan that aims to review our campus offerings and make sure we are doing what we should be doing; are in line with academic aspirations; safe, sustainable; and that we are being good stewards of what is a very valuable resource. This Campus Master Plan is one of many that RISD has carried out over the decades and continues to constantly maintain and evolve the campus.

We are only part way through this comprehensive master plan, but in the meantime there are still campus projects that need to be done, as part of routine maintenance, as part of remedial maintenance, as part of strategic initiatives, as continuations of previous projects, as a result of student profiles and movements, and as a result of strategic opportunities that arise. Facilities works are always on going, and while the Campus Master Plan allows us to take a strategic look at where we are heading and what we think the future holds, it is set in the context of an existing, working school that has needs and already planned work.

One of the big projects that are already underway is the alteration for ISB. This summer has seen the next phase of this project really get into the bowels of the building with the reclamation of considerably more usable floor space, the establishment of an efficient mechanical system and the renovation of significant spaces. This has been a complicated project for various reasons and we are committed to providing excellent spaces in ISB. The final phase of works will be next summer and will leave us with a building that has excellent spaces, access to all floors, ventilation and air conditioning, extensive information technology systems, a new elevator and will have taken account of some major deferred maintenance issues. Some of the spaces in the building are amazing and I would encourage you to take a tour.

Another project that was highlighted in the Strategic Plan was the establishment of a shared making facility that would explore shared making: CO-WORKS. The activities in the Fletcher Building to re-purpose the bar that occupied the rental space are coming to fruition and we will soon be able to get this space for exploration working. The aim is to build gradually the agenda for CO-WORKS and to establish systems in place over the fall break and then open up formally for WinterSession with a call for programming of Shared Making classes. CO-WORKS will be operational during September and October as we work through some pilot shared making activities. If you have any questions about the space, please do not hesitate to contact me.

The previous iteration of the Campus Master Plan (original date 1996) noted that Film Animation Video, Apparel and Furniture were departments that needed significant attention. While many departments need capital work, these were specifically highlighted for more detailed attention due to more fundamental issues with their operational spaces. In addition we know that we have immediate issues for Foundation studios and Liberal Arts classrooms. The taking on of these logistics is never a straightforward process and often requires a chain of events to happen – and investment! The catalyst for some of these changes came with the availability of new space. This was made possible due to the current market dynamics, restructuring of loans, the gift of a significant part of a building, and some very tough negotiating and hard work behind the scenes by many of the operations staff. In order to make the most of these opportunities we were able to move quickly due to the wonderful support of the Board of Trustees, who have a primarily fiduciary role for the School.

This has resulted in the purchasing of 189 Canal Street and 123 Dyer Street – the latter as a substantial gift.

189 Canal Street has allowed us to move Apparel completely from the Auditorium Building into spaces that also include a general classroom. The spaces vacated have been made available to Film Animation Video to be able to finally have more thoughtful space for classes, for research and for advanced practice. It has also allowed us to provide two essential Foundation studios and two Liberal Arts classrooms. The move has allowed us to also make one or two tactical changes in College Building and Market House – changes that have been talked about for decades and we are now in the position to act on them. This has all been done with keeping an eye on the Campus Master Plan and in particular key principles such as academic-led and sustainable practices.

123 Dyer Street has allowed us to rethink 20 Washington Place (ProvWash) as a more student centric building – once again with an eye on the Campus Master Plan and not painting ourselves into a corner. 123 Dyer Street will become the home for Institutional Engagement and Careers. This clears the third floor for development into two classrooms, a studio and a dedicated space for Global Programs. This should relieve some scheduling pressures and also integrate ProvWash with greater student activities.

In addition there have been the more usual, but nonetheless essential, capital projects conducted throughout campus, making this one of the busiest summers for our Facilities Department.

There is still considerable work to do, both in keeping an eye on the immediate and in keeping an eye on the future. The skill is making sure that we do these everyday works with an eye on the Campus Master Plan and avoid redundant work as much as possible.

Arnold Toynbee famously stated the dogma that “history is just ‘one damned thing after another …’” and yet there is something in that statement that makes sense. Connections to causality are often simplified and abstracted, and it is often unclear when things exactly started. The Campus Master Plan is only one episode in an on going effort to maintain a School and a campus that is the envy of many schools around the world.
Pradeep Sharma
Acting Provost


Campus planning, Master Plan

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