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Rachel Bernstein / Staff Photographer

Students take turns signing one of the steel beams that will be used to create the steel skeleton of the new Teaching and Learning Center.

As construction for Barnard's new Teaching and Learning Center nears its one year mark, students will soon get a first glimpse at what the building will look like as the skeletal frame takes shape in the next phase of construction.

The 11-story building, which first began construction in December 2015, replaced Lehman Hall and will house a library, departmental offices, new classrooms, a computational science center, a digital commons, conferencing facilities that connect to the Diana Center, a café, study spaces, the Barnard Center for Research on Women, and the Athena Center for Leadership Studies.

While the building is set to be officially completed by August 2018, the skeleton will be finished by mid-March, according to Chief Operating Officer Rob Goldberg and Vice President for Campus Services Gail Beltrone.

“This is going to be the first phase where [the building] literally rises above the construction site and will start to be seen by everyone on Claremont, as well as on Broadway,” Beltrone said.

Beltrone also said the college expects to have a temporary occupation license by June 2018. This certifies that the building is “substantially complete,” meaning that the building's construction is finished, but it is not fully operational yet. Between then and the official August opening date, library books and archives in off-site storage will return to campus—including the collection currently housed in Butler Library's Milstein Collection—and individual items for faculty members' offices will also be moved in.

Although the crane that was supposed to begin bringing in the steel beams on Dec. 3 and 4 will not arrive on campus until this weekend, construction is still on schedule.

Now, Beltrone said the college is beginning to focus on the operational components of the building.

Beltrone said that the Teaching and Learning Center will be different from the Diana Center in terms of design and functionality.

While the Diana Center visually uses vibrant red, orange, blue, and purple colors in its design, the Teaching and Learning Center will not.

“We deliberately asked [the designers] to stay away from such strong colors that are difficult to maintain, which includes stark white,” Beltrone said. “You will not see that variety of heavily saturated colors in terms of plain color in the new building.”

Beltrone also said that unlike the Diana Center, the furniture in the new building will be made in the U.S. because it will be easier to purchase additional furniture in the future and support the local economy.

The building's stakeholders and occupants—which include Barnard library staff and faculty—will also have a voice in the center's interior design. Beltrone also said the college would be open to having interested students help provide input on the design of the public spaces in the building.

Once these design aspects are addressed, commissioning activities will be finalized, which include evacuation procedures in the event of an emergency and other additional security measures for the building.

Although the building is on track to be finished by the original planned date of August 2018, students interviewed by Spectator said they are eager for the building's completion because study spaces have been impacted by construction.

“[The LeFrak Center] can get really crowded—there's like no space for me,” Erika Valdez, BC '20, said. “I am excited for [the building], but I can't help but mention that the construction is impeding on our education.”  

Beltrone and Goldberg said they are also looking forward to completing the building and are pleased with its progress thus far.

“I think what makes this all the more exciting is that when you look at President [Debora] Spar's strategic plan in 2011—which spoke exactly to this—is that this is actually staying right on schedule,” Beltrone said. “It's exciting to see the actualization of a plan such as this actually reach its final finish.”

margaret.vorhaben@columbiaspectator.com | @ColumbiaSpec

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