Gherardo Astaldi Journal Contributor
Plans for 20 Somerset are underway as Suffolk University promises to open the doors of its new building in the fall of 2015.
After the Suffolk trustees put the project on hold, pending the review in 2011, Thursday’s meeting in the C. Walsh Theater was pivotal to decrease dwindling expectations as President McCarthy said, “we really hope at this point that we’re onto a plan that will work and will get started very quickly.”
With the help of a real estate firm, Suffolk University underwent a “test fit” exploring the physical space available in the building. There were two questions to be answered during this preliminary phase of the project: How many classrooms, and what kind of classrooms, could fit in the building?
During the meeting President McCarthy was also very pleased to report that “we have very strong letters of support from all the neighborhood groups.” These letters further encourage the construction of 20 Somerset and strengthen Suffolk’s relations with the Beacon Hill and Boston residents.
At the Nov. 14 meeting, the board approved a resolution giving permission to proceed the project of 20 Somerset into further detail involving architect sketches and the overall environment.
President McCarthy also highlighted some of the salient architectural aspects of the building.
“There will be a plaza in front for students to meet and exchange intellectual thoughts. The building’s staircase will have an outlook onto the plaza encouraging staircase usage as well as an appreciation of the city of Boston.” The internal staircase is going to be surrounded by glass, which will further emphasize one of Suffolk’s main suggestions to its incoming freshmen, which is that of getting involved, but most importantly, that of being seen.
Since the modern 20 Somerset building resembles the rational architecture developed in the mid 1920s for buildings around the world, the students’ exposure to light as they climb the stairs may also be interpreted as their exposure to the “light” and “journey” of knowledge.
Additionally, McCarthy also said that “the building will provide as many mixed setting classrooms as possible” including classrooms with 40 to 50 students. This will seem to revolutionize Suffolk’s student to professor ratio, which has always been at a record low of 20:1.
“The plan here details classrooms of 60 and 80 seats, does this not conflict with Suffolk’s catching point of having an intimate classroom setting?” said a Sawyer Business student during the meeting. McCarthy’s reply was that “it does not include all classrooms of 60 and 80 seats, but classrooms of various sizes. And secondly, we are rethinking every way we teach here at Suffolk, including on-line and hybrid courses.“ Suffolk University’s change to a better and more efficient building lies in the years to come, as the moribund structure of Fenton will be sold away.
The support centers will be moved to the fourth floor of 20 Somerset, as will the science departments. Doubt remains on where the organizations and clubs will meet after Fenton and Ridgway will be sold and the Donahue building will house only offices. Chances are that 20 Somerset will be an innovative and vibrant structure that will enhance Suffolk’s prestige around the Boston area.