Amherst Magazine

College to Change Site of New Science Center

By Emily Gold Boutilier

[Update] President Biddy Martin announced in May that, in order to stem rising costs and reduce disruption, the college will change the location and design of the planned new science center, while remaining on track to complete the building in 2018.

The original plans had called for a new building on the site of the current Merrill Science Center. The administration and board of trustees decided to halt those plans “for two key reasons,” Martin wrote in an email to the community. “First, because of the escalation in cost, which can be attributed, in large part, to the demands of the site; and, second, because the impact of the preparatory work indicates that construction will cause unacceptable disruption to faculty research, teaching and student life.”

She said the decision was difficult “because of the visionary and compelling design” that the architects—Behnisch Architekten—had developed for the Merrill location. However, she said, “fiscal responsibility demands that we pivot to a less difficult site that allows for a single phase of construction.”

Martin’s letter said a decision on a new site and a new planning architect will come quickly. While planning is under way, she wrote, the college “will address improvements in Merrill to allow for ongoing scientific research and teaching in a safe and productive environment.”

“As planned, in 2018, we will have opened a new science center that meets the research needs of our faculty,” she wrote, “while offering the best science education available to undergraduates anywhere.”