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First Impressions: Recalling History’s Hidden Potential

Spring 2010
By Aaron Richmond-Havel 09F


We laid the topography models side by side, creating a miniature replica of Hampshire’s campus as the numerous layers of tan boards seemed to click into place. It was the first time we had seen how all of our individual projects—all aimed either to redesign existing structures on the campus or build new ones—seemed to work together to construct a more diverse campus experience.

My Architecture: Backwards and Forwards class began with a clear mission. It was thought of when school administrators and students alike began to think of ways in which underused structures could be refashioned into more active and vital areas for students or faculty.

First, we investigated the ways in which architects and artists used the built environment to reflect their natural surroundings. Studying the history of the Hampshire campus, with structures dating back as far as 1770, we began to realize how the agricultural history and the unique New England landscape produced a distinct identity of the area. “Thinking as designers,” as our professor, Gretchen Schneider said, continued to be our mode of exploration.

My research, along with a team of my classmates, is on the conversion of buildings along the Route 116 road. For those who might not have taken the drive to see our campus, you may be surprised by how abruptly the entrance appears from around a bend. But in actuality, you’ve been driving through the campus property for some time. Seeing as though there is no distinct identity shift from surrounding Amherst and the campus, my group has decided to create a new kind of housing community that introduces the college to the border of the town, while creating on-campus jobs simultaneously.

Our process so far has included drafting an initial master plan that outlines our desires for the area. Additionally, we finished a topography model, showing the slope of the land near our development along with mock-ups of the buildings. As of now, we are expanding on our preliminary idea, into the technicalities and the details of everyday living within this proposed community. We envision our research and master plan as benefiting not only the campus population, but also the Amherst area through public education opportunities and a greater community engagement.

We are all genuinely excited about having the opportunity to change our campus, and our community, for the better. Furthermore, as the class was commissioned for this purpose, we are especially aware that our findings and thoughts have an interested audience, taking these proposals seriously. Personally, I find this respect and appreciation exceptionally inspiring in completing my own work.

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