Bates College Office of Intercultural Exchange

A former dining facility that was awkwardly configured and architecturally uninspiring was converted into a new home for a student organization that promotes campus inclusion, compassion, and respect. Students expressed their desire for a place that fulfilled both practical needs—for a kitchen, offices, meeting rooms, and gathering spaces—and a space that invited engagement with the greater community of students, faculty, and visitors.

Due to time and financial constraints, the design team was limited to a few select design interventions. The prohibitive cost of removing asbestos mandated that the existing floor tile remain. The acoustical tile ceiling was removed, and the building infrastructure above it was painted a deep cobalt blue. Contemporary lighting was added to create an atmosphere that was at once comfortably scaled and expansive. Polycarbonate panels installed as wall sheathing for the new offices and meeting rooms provided a fast, inexpensive, and light-diffusing solution.

The new OIE has been embraced by students and recognized by the college administration. Crystal Ann Williams, associate vice president and chief diversity officer at Bates, says, “The result is a space that speaks to the heart of who we are at Bates — complex, centered around community, pushing the edges while simultaneously honoring, even lauding, those historic elements that define so much of what Bates has been and what it is becoming.”

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