Grinnell College Planning Study

Grinnell , Iowa

In the year 2000, the planning firms of Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson, Abbott, and Dober, Lidsky, Craig and Associates authored a Master Plan for Grinnell College. The plan offered a comprehensive collection of recommendations intended to nurture and enrich the college’s already idyllic campus experience. Over the last twelve years the college has executed four extraordinary buildings, all within the context of the Master Plan. As Grinnell College approached the final stages of the Master Plan, they chose to bundle five inter-related projects into one phase. OPN Architects was hired to lead the assessment and planning of a major transformation of the College’s South Academic Campus with specific focus on five academic facilities:

  1. Burling Library
  2. The Forum
  3. Carnegie Hall
  4. Alumni Recitation Hall (ARH)
  5. The Bookstore

Two of the buildings being studied, Burling Library and The Forum, are significant modernist structures designed by architect Walter Netsch while he was at Skidmore Owings Merrill. Mr. Netsch is best known for the extraordinary Air Force Academy Chapel in Colorado Springs. The evaluation of the value of these two buildings, in terms of both pragmatic programmatic use and of historical significance is a key component of this planning exercise.

Also under consideration are Carnegie Hall and the Alumni Recitation Hall. Both of these buildings are beautiful neo-classical structures and are in excellent shape on the exterior. Over time, the persona of the original interiors has been lost due to pragmatic programmatic considerations.

OPN’s study of these five projects is guided by the goals and identity of the College. Grinnell’s vibrant and competitive academic environment supports progressive cultural and programmatic pedagogy. OPN’s analysis of South Campus takes a holistic and collaborative approach to planning involving the engagement of campus stakeholders at every level. At the completion of this work, Grinnell College will be prepared to implement five of the last major pieces to The 2000 Master Plan with a complete, clear vision of the each of the projects and the investments required to move forward.

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