Dartmouth undertaking $75 million on Hopkins Center renovation with Norwegian design firm

  • A planned Hopkins Center renovation will add three new recital halls; upgrade rehearsal, practice and classroom spaces; and bring the performing arts venue up to modern standards. Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

  • Mary Lou Aleskie Samantha Annette Photography

Valley News
Published: 2/11/2021 4:48:27 PM

Dartmouth College is embarking on a $75 million renovation and expansion of the Hopkins Center for the Arts and has chosen a Norwegian global design firm to develop plans for the project.

Built in 1962 as the first major university performing and fine arts center, the Hop is due for updating, Director Mary Lou Aleskie said Wednesday.

“This has been a long-awaited project,” Aleskie said, noting that discussions about Hop renovations date back 20 years. The project, which is part of Dartmouth’s current $3 billion capital campaign, has taken on new urgency, she said. There’s a pressing need for arts centers like the Hop, “not just in making artists, but in making solid human beings,” she said.

In the meantime, Dartmouth has developed what it calls an “Arts District” in downtown Hanover, spending around $100 million to build the Black Family Visual Arts Center, which opened in 2012, and to renovate and expand the Hood Museum of Art, which reopened in January 2019. The Hop project is the remaining piece of the Arts District, which has also served to redevelop the college’s presence on Lebanon Street.

Thus far, the college has raised $25 million toward the Hopkins Center renovation. On Wednesday, Dartmouth named Snohetta, a design firm founded in Oslo, Norway, in 1989, as the company that will oversee a re-imagining of the Hop.

Snohetta, which has seven offices or studios around the world including New York and San Francisco, has designed everything from theater sets to the master plan for Ford Motor Co.’s Dearborn, Mich., campus. The New York office will oversee the Hop project.

The Hopkins Center is not only an Upper Valley landmark, but a national one, prefiguring as it does the construction of New York City’s Metropolitan Opera House, which was also designed by modernist giant Wallace K. Harrison and which bears a striking resemblance to the Hop.

Between the Hop, the Hood Museum, designed by Charles Moore and renovated and expanded by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien Architects, and the visual arts center, designed by Machado and Silvetti, the Arts District has “become a very important architectural collection,” Aleskie said.

“Snohetta has a real interest in our building,” she added. “They care deeply about the Wallace Harrison history.”

The Hop project will cost about 50% more than either of the other Arts District buildings, but that’s because it’s already huge — 175,000 square feet — designed as it was to host all of the arts under one roof.

The primary Hopkins Center spaces most Upper Valley residents have gotten to know — Spaulding Auditorium, Moore Theatre and Warner Bentley Theatre — will remain in place.

The renovation will add three new recital halls, upgrade rehearsal, practice and classroom spaces and bring the Hop up to date.

Aleskie noted that the only place big enough to host a rehearsal of the Dartmouth Symphony is the stage of Spaulding Auditorium.

The coronavirus pandemic has also broadened the Hop’s horizons, with audiences tuning in from all over the world for Hop@Home performances.

Updating the Hop will integrate that wider digital reach, making it easier for people to see Hop performances, particularly by Dartmouth students, from anywhere.

“There’s a lot that we can do with a technically advanced center,” Aleskie said.

Plans for the renovation could emerge by the end of the year, and construction could begin by late 2022, but no firm dates have been set. Construction will likely have to be done in phases, Aleskie said, with some parts of the building open and others closed.

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