Hopkins Center for the Arts to undergo $88 million expansion
Planned renovations will create a new outdoor plaza, recital hall and dance studio.
On April 7, the College announced an $88 million expansion and renovation of the Hopkins Center for the Arts, with the goal of “enhancing opportunities for artistic exploration and growth” in the building. The expansion is part of the College’s $3 billion Call to Lead campaign.
The renovation, led by international architecture firm Snøhetta, will not only create 15,000 square feet of new space, but also “transform” 55,000 square feet of the building’s current space, according to the College.
“The Hop was first built in 1962. At the time, it was the only university arts center of its type, bringing together multidisciplinary arts under one roof,” wrote Hopkins Center director Mary Lou. Aleskie, in a statement emailed to Dartmouth. “After all these years, and especially with the growing demand from students, a renovation and even an extension were in order.”
The redesign aims to foster more “opportunities for artistic creation,” she wrote, primarily through the addition of new performance and rehearsal spaces. This includes a performance lab, recital hall, dance studio, theater rehearsal room, and other music rehearsal and teaching spaces. She added that the new spaces aim to combat long waiting lists, increase the length and number of residencies for artists at the Hopkins Center, and provide resources for student groups and ensembles.
“Hop’s expansion and renovation is primarily driven by growing student demand and popularity,” Aleskie wrote. “We hope that Hop will become even more central in the lives of students, whether or not they have an artistic practice.
Additional structural changes to the building include a new entrance to the building and an outdoor plaza. The Spaulding Auditorium, Theater Rehearsal Lab and “Top of the Hop” will also be “updated and improved”.
According to Aleskie, the renovation project raised $50.1 million of the planned $88 million thanks to support from alumni and donors. Construction is expected to begin in December 2022 with the goal of a full reopening in fall 2025.
Engineering and studio art professor Jack Wilson said he thinks the new additions could improve on parts of the building’s original design.
“The complexity of finding one’s way through the Hop was always the main design flaw in the original design and I hope the Snøhetta plan will remedy that,” he said, adding that with “the excellent Snøhetta’s reputation among critics and other professional designers,” he believes the company is an excellent choice.
Aleskie wrote that the enthusiasm for the project among Dartmouth alumni and arts supporters has been “huge”.
To account for the construction, Aleskie explained that the Hop will continue to offer in-person shows and programs using spaces in different parts of campus and in collaboration with local venues. Hop staff are also working to ensure students still have spaces they can use, in addition to the possibility of opening some spaces before 2025.
The Courtyard Cafe will remain open during and after construction, Aleskie wrote.
Gwendolyn Roland ’25, who works as a theater usher and at the Hopkins Center box office and takes various art classes, said her biggest complaint about the Hopkins Center’s current design is its lack of accessibility.
“If someone comes to a show at the Bentley Theater in a wheelchair, you have to walk through the whole building and then take them backstage,” she said.
According to Roland, the main space for student productions, the Bentley Theater, is not expected to be renovated in the update. On the other hand, Roland said she appreciates the addition of new dance and performance spaces and an accessible entrance.
In terms of accessibility, Aleskie wrote that there has been “a lot” of detailed work between the campus planning team, the Hopkins Center team and Snøhetta to think about access to new and existing venues and from various entry points.
Studio art professor Zenovia Toloudi wrote in an emailed statement to The Dartmouth that some of the most notable parts of the expansion plan include its respect for the design of original architect Wallace K Harrison, its incorporation of outdoor spaces and its bridge between new and old architecture. She added that she believed the plan would help increase students’ appreciation of the building.
“[The Hopkins Center’s] greater architectural importance, the values of spaces, organization and structure are not fully appreciated, simply because they are labeled as ‘old’,” she wrote. “The renovation and expansion will once again highlight the treasures it conceals.”