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Preparations continuefor new science building

Nov. 3, 1999

Architects working

on design scheme

By CHRIS ALLEN

Staff writer

In an October interview with The Lariat, and then again at the President's Faculty Forum Meeting, President Robert B. Sloan Jr. was eager to share his ideas for the location and design of the new science building, which is expected to be the school's most expensive construction project ever.

The proposed building would stand four stories high, netting more than a quarter of a million new square feet to offset the overcrowding in Sid Richardson and Marrs McLean science buildings. The current site is likely to span across Fountain Mall, fitting between the horseshoe shape of the current buildings, with an open archway down the middle to maintain the link between Fountain Mall and Moody Memorial Library.

'It is quite a wonderful concept,' Sloan said.

The archway would cut through the first two floors of the building, with at least a 20-foot clearance.

The president added that the street in front of the library might be closed to provide space for a fountain area to improve the overall aesthetics of the area.

But don't expect to see workers beginning work anytime soon. According to Dr. Ben Pierce, associate dean for the College of Arts and Sciences, the current plans project five to seven years before the building will be complete. The architects are currently working on a final schematic design, Pierce said. Once that is complete, Waco Construction will prepare a cost estimate based on the schematic design. The Baylor Board of Regents will probably get the opportunity to accept the plans during a meeting in January or February.

If the Regents approve the design and cost, fundraising will begin immediately. Drafting the final blueprints and construction will last an additional two or two-and-a-half years.

The need for improving Baylor's science facilities is no secret. The current buildings are 30 years old, the chairs are all bolted to the floor from a time when classes were primarily lectures and laboratory space is severely limited, officials said.

'We've been busting at the seams for a long time now,' Pierce said. 'Students are getting a good education now, but we can do a lot better job with more space.'

At the Oct. 21 faculty forum, Sloan was asked about the priority of the building and why 'this project has apparently taken second place to new non-academic buildings such as the student life center and athletic facilities.'

Sloan strongly disagreed with the charge.

'It is a chronological fallacy to believe that things happening chronologically are somehow less important,' he said. 'I want to emphasize how important this is, and if anyone disagrees, I invite them to take the pulse of people involved in the sciences.'

Pierce agreed with Sloan that the new science facility has received proper attention.

'It often appears that nothing is happening,' he said, 'because the work that goes on behind the scenes isn't always apparent. But the administration has been working very intensively for the past couple years, and the president has been very supportive and has provided much of the momentum.'