Feature Stories 2024: Restoring a modern learning hub

Exterior of Building
Grand renovations are planned for the Arts & Sciences building, an academic staple on UMass Dartmouth's campus.
Feature Stories 2024: Restoring a modern learning hub
Restoring a modern learning hub

The largest investment in UMass Dartmouth’s history will prepare the Arts & Sciences building to serve students for the future

In 1964, famed Brutalist architect Paul Rudolph designed a distinctive setting for UMass Dartmouth’s campus—a series of concrete buildings in futuristic shapes that has served as the center of groundbreaking research and innovative thinking for decades. Sixty years later, the largest investment from the state of Massachusetts in UMass Dartmouth’s history will restore the main structure and first piece built in Rudolph’s campus plan, the Arts & Sciences building, and support student success for generations to come.

The Arts & Sciences building is the heart of the UMass Dartmouth campus, home to the College of Arts & Sciences, the largest college with its 60+ majors and minors. This central learning hub is also the site for community involvement at the Leduc Center for Civic Engagement, where our students, faculty, and staff organize to meet the needs of the SouthCoast through engaged learning and civic participation.

The Arts & Sciences building has functioned as the academic workhorse of the campus since construction was completed in 1966. Outside, its cantilever awnings, textured surfaces and other elements of Brutalist design make it historically significant and unique. Inside, cascading stairways carry students through three floors containing 34 classrooms, 173 faculty and staff offices, and light-filled atriums shaped by spiraling geometric forms that create spaces for collaboration and connection.

This timely renovation of the Arts & Sciences building introduces a major opportunity to incorporate recent advances in technology, accessibility, and sustainability and provide UMass Dartmouth students with an unparalleled academic experience.

A historic investment in UMass Dartmouth

With $73 million in funding initially secured from the state in 2022, plus an additional $8 million allocated in 2023, the Arts & Sciences building looks forward to a renovation that will make it the modern learning center of campus. The $81 million investment from the state’s Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance will address deferred maintenance issues within the building. The full project—which will enhance classrooms, labs, offices, and student meeting spaces, and includes implementing geothermal energy as a part of UMass Dartmouth’s commitment to environmental sustainability—will cost approximately $97 million and is expected to be completed in 2026. The university will launch a fundraising campaign to support the cost of modernizing classrooms and areas that house student support services to ensure that UMass Dartmouth is providing a 21st-century learning environment for students.

“This historic investment in UMass Dartmouth and in our students—the single largest investment in our history—will enable us to provide the learning spaces our students need to pursue their ambitions," said UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Mark A. Fuller. “This comprehensive renovation of a signature academic building will make a major difference in the lives of our students and educational attainment on the SouthCoast.”

Graphic from Philanthropy Report
With a complete systems replacement, the Arts & Sciences building will be the first major project in a campus-wide decarbonization effort. Graphic courtesy of Sasaki Associates.

Led by the architectural firms of Sasaki Associates and Finegold Alexander, the project seeks to restore the Arts & Sciences building to its glory with updated systems for the future, focusing on meeting the University’s clean energy goals and the state’s green energy codes. Sasaki will work with 11 engineering and consulting firms, including those with expertise in renovating historic buildings.

The renovation of the Arts & Sciences building will bring enhancements to the campus’s most heavily trafficked building that address modern academic needs. Work will preserve Rudolph’s innovative design while modernizing the building’s mechanical systems and replacing its roof and windows. As the first major project in a campus-wide decarbonization effort, the renovation will utilize energy-efficient systems, including a geothermal wellfield. The HVAC system will be replaced and electrical and other mechanical systems will be upgraded to improve both comfort and energy efficiency.

“This exciting renewal of the Arts & Sciences building will impact every first-year UMass Dartmouth student as they take their foundational courses in an upgraded facility that supports student learning,” said Interim Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences Robert Jones. Classrooms will see improvements that facilitate active learning and introduces configurations and enhanced technology infrastructure that will provide accessibility and flexibility. Significant upgrades to ADA accessibility will make it easier for all members of the community to use learning and common spaces.

As UMass Dartmouth continues its upward trajectory in national rankings and witnesses the success of students, the renovation of the Arts & Sciences building is a key milestone in the university’s positive momentum and recognition of its commitment to providing an outstanding education that prepares students for the future.