Old Georgetown Board discusses University master planning

September 5, 2013

On Wednesday, the Old Georgetown Board, an advisory committee that conducts private reviews of semi-public and private structures within the Georgetown neighborhood boundaries, once again voiced concerns about the construction and design of the Northeast Triangle in a hearing with the designers from Sasaki Associates. The discussion was one of several expected to be had in the upcoming months between the Board, the group of architects, and the student body in order to finally reach a decision on the design and construction of the new dorm.

Created by the Old Georgetown Act of 1950, the Old Georgetown Board consists of three architects, appointed by the Commission of Fine Arts, who serve without compensation for three-year terms.

During the meeting, the Commission of Fine Arts also introduced its two new appointees—Alan Brangman, the Georgetown University Architect from 1994 to 2010, and David Cox, a previous member of the Board who is serving a one year extension.

Brangman supervised the design of the completed Southwest Quadrangle and the Hairiri Building, but also oversaw failed projects such as the Wormly School and the GU Boathouse. In his introduction, Brangman said that he believed his experience with Georgetown University would help him meet both the needs of the students and the requirements of the administration.

One of the main topics discussed in the hearing was the controversial Northeast Triangle proposal that has caused a backlash from the Georgetown students.

For the hearing, Georgetown University brought in Sasaki Associates’ principal planner Gregory Janks to advocate for the construction of the Northeast Triangle.

“The most important thing to say is that all the planning done today for Georgetown University is really focused on reinforcing the vibrant and active student life on campus,” Janks said. “It’s not simply sufficient to provide beds without providing a vibrant community for our students as well to make sure that the campus is a place where they want to be.”

Janks explained to the Board how Sasaki used data collected from an interactive map to choose a location based along the major pathway that goes all the way from Lau and the main gates, through Red Square, and ends at Darnall.

Two more important aspects of the planning process included an emphasis on adding more space by increasing the height of buildings and creating a community in the northern part of campus by adding more beds.

Despite Jank’s justifications for the proposal, the Board voiced several concerns regarding the design and location of the Northeast Triangle.

“It bothers me that it [the dorm] has relatively few number of beds for the result and one of the outcomes is the loss of a significant communal part of the campus. It [the pathway from Red Square to Leavey Center] has a key role as a connector on campus,” Stephen Muse, the third member of the Board, said. “This building could suggest that you wind up with slivers of space. I think [the new space] should be a key component of attracting new freshmen students to the university.”

Brangman expressed concern for the loss of green space. “One of the best things about college campuses is that you do find opportunities to find open space in different areas of the campus,” Brangman said.

Responding to the concerns about the loss of open space because of the development of the Northeast Triangle, Janks told the Board  that the galleria design of the building would preserve 50 percent of the green space lost.

A lack of open areas, however, was not the Board’s only concern. As a whole, the Board agreed that the plan lacked a comprehensive approach and the correct motivation needed for a successful design.

“One thing that is striking everyone is the unfortunate expediency that is driving this [project]. The project has this short term sense to it,” Cook said. “I think the real opportunity for master planning is to think about that whole strip Henle down to Reiss as one giant, consolidated piece to blend more intelligently with all the space on campus.






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