Barnard history professor Herbert Sloan has been in his office at 409 Lehman Hall for the past 10 years. But he’s anticipating packing up his stacks of books into boxes when he and other faculty who have offices in Lehman are displaced to swing space during construction on the building.
Barnard’s administration announced last April that it would close the Barnard pool in the basement of Barnard Hall this May and eventually convert the facility into swing space for offices during construction on Lehman Hall, which, in addition to housing Wollman Library, also holds the political science, history, economics, and urban studies departments’ offices. It’s a necessary, if tedious, move, professors say.
Barnard President Debora Spar announced on Monday that the college is hoping to demolish Lehman and replace it with an 11-story, $150 million building, but that won’t be for several years down the road.
Transforming the pool into swing space is scheduled for this summer, though. Once Barnard closes the pool in May, “we will be draining the pool, disconnecting the supporting equipment and systems, and securing the space,” Gregory Brown, Barnard’s Chief Operating Officer, said in an email.
“Once this is accomplished, most likely at the end of the summer, we will begin evaluating our options for using the area as swing space,” Brown said. Any other potential uses, such as office space or library collection storage, will depend on the design and planning processes of the Lehman Hall construction project.
History professor Jose Moya said that he will miss the current building, which he said is an architectural rarity and holds symbolic importance to Barnard’s history. He called Lehman, which was built in the late 1950s, “one of the last expressions of the International modernist style of architecture in New York City.”
“It will probably be uncomfortable, but hopefully it won’t take too long to get through the process,” Kimberly Johnson, a political science and urban studies professor, said, adding that she hopes Barnard will be able to keep the departments together when they move into the swing space.
Sloan admitted that “we’re imagining the worst situation, and I’m sure the college will see to it that it’s not that bad.”
Sloan said that he would be more comfortable moving into the Interchurch Center across Claremont Avenue, in close proximity to Lehman Hall. The 19-story granite structure, nicknamed the “God box,” is where Columbia’s Office of Alumni and Development is located.
Brown said that the administration has yet to determine the specifics of the relocation process.
“No decisions on relocation will be made without careful consultation with the affected parties. As a result, we have not yet outlined the exact relocation plans for specific departments,” he said.
Moya said that he would prefer not to move into the swing space, but he’s keeping an open mind.
“I wouldn’t like it, but I’m willing to, if it is for the collective good for the college,” Moya said. “Moving into some dark place for a year, I’m OK with that. I won’t love it, but that’s the way things are. Sometimes you need to make concessions.”
But according to Brown, the use of the pool as swing space will continue for not one but several years during the construction. Afterward, the college plans to convert the space into an improved fitness center.
Johnson said she is excited that a new building is in the works.
“I think it’s a great building for its time, but I’m really looking forward to a building that will better serve the students and faculty,” she said.