The new Molecular and Life Sciences Center, to be completed by 2015, will be one of Wesleyan’s most important—and undoubtedly most expensive—building projects ever. The facility will transform science instruction and research on campus, and has the potential to significantly improve the attractiveness of the University to students on campus as well as to prospective students.
What gives us pause, however, is that this kind of excitement has surrounded most of the University’s building projects over the last few years, and the end results have been decidedly mixed. The University won’t be winning any awards for seamlessly integrating a new building in between old ones anytime soon, if prior attempts with the architecturally bewildering Zelnick Pavilion, the blandly sterile Fauver Residences and the visually lackluster and functionally disappointing Usdan University Center are any indication.
It could be argued that the architecture won’t much matter, as long as the building delivers for scientists and science majors. This thinking is completely wrong, and indicative of some of the University’s recent uninspired—and uninspiring—architectural additions. If the University is going to spend $160 million on a new building, that building should add, rather than detract, from the University’s image and beauty.
At a time when President Michael Roth is pledging to spread the image and message of Wesleyan across the nation and abroad, it should be noted that an innovative, exciting and dynamic science facility could do a lot of that talking for him. Furthermore, fundraising will be a critically important part of the project. As a donor, would you be more excited to put your money, and your name, on an exciting, striking building, or one that’s merely adequate? Finally, a beautiful campus instills pride in students, and makes us want to contribute to our school, talk about it and return to it.
The University can’t stop talking about what great critical thinkers it turns out. It’s about time that its building projects showed evidence of some thought.