New student lounge area transforms River Dorms
A new lounge space opened this year for communal activities on the ground level of Campbell Hall on the College Avenue campus welcomed students moving into the building.
Completion of the Campbell Hall lounge construction was second in a three-part construction series on Frelinghuysen, Hardenbergh and Campbell Halls on George Street — collectively known as the River Dorms — with the cost of about $1.6 million for each lounge space.
"The lounge adds additional student space, common space that really helps to make the experience of living in a dorm and being at college that much better," said Antonio Calcado, vice president of University Facilities and Capital Planning.
The River Dorms were built in 1956 to follow the trend of International Style architecture and were raised a floor above ground level so the Raritan River was visible from George Street.
Prior to the renovations, the open space was sparsely used and there was inadequate communal space in all of the River Dorms for educational and recreational activities, Vice President for Student Affairs Gregory S. Blimling said.
The University sees the new lounges as opportunities for increased social interaction with students, more educational programs and more social space, he said.
"The lounges are really helping students interact within the community," said Greg Shapiro, College Avenue chair for the Residence Hall Association. "Now floors can intermingle with each other in a central space instead of just hanging out on one floor."
Construction began with the Frelinghuysen lounge space, which was completed in 2008. Plans for the other two River Dorms advanced after the success of the Frelinghuysen lounge, which received an Outstanding Designs Award from American School & University Magazine.
Designed to preserve the sightline between George Street and the river and to encourage student interaction, all three residence hall lounges are modeled very similarly, with floor-to-ceiling glass windows and signature color schemes.
"The ability to effectively communicate and work closely with other internal University departments was critical, considering the scale of the project and its aggressive timeline," said Steve Dubiago, associate director of Housing Operations. "The project now promotes student interaction and has improved building aesthetics along George [Street]."
Hardenbergh construction is scheduled for completion next summer.
Controversy over the future of the half-century old River Dorms grew in 2006, during an on-campus design competition, in which architects were asked to envision what the campus could be.
A popular design concept completely removed the River Dorms and opened possibilities of an open park area or a new student center.
"It's not financially possible for the University to do that anytime in the near future," Blimling said. "We need the space for students, so we don't have any intention of taking down the River Dorms anytime in the foreseeable future. Maybe in [a few] years someone will be interested in pursuing them but not anytime in the foreseeable future."