Thursday, June 13, 2013

Who was Beatrice McDonald, and what will BMH look like after its "re-do"? And finally, what's the story behind those big rocks in front of the building?

Patricia Baum of Facilities, Planning and Construction (FP&C) is the project manager overseeing the updating and major “re-do” of the Beatrice McDonald Hall (BMH) on the west side of campus, near the Cuddy Quad.  Now that all the departments have moved out, more hard work begins June 24. You’ll notice a fence go up around the building as work begins.

This aerial view of West Campus from May 1970.
Completed in 1970 for the original Anchorage Community College, BMH has long been home to Anthropology, Geology and College Preparatory and Development Studies  (CPDS).

An historical description of the building notes that it once housed foreign languages, vocational teacher education, human services and several science classrooms.

While Anthropology and Geology have relocated temporarily, CPDS’s move is permanent to the Professional Studies Building (PSB). Their departure makes room for the Alaska Natural Heritage Program (formerly located at 707 A Street) to move in when the building is completed in the fall of 2014, with first classes in the building planned for Spring 2015.  Anthropology and Geology will return.

UAA is being assisted on this project by Architects Alaska and Lake View Contracting. Here is an architect’s description of the building and the planned rejuvenation:

The Beatrice McDonald Hall is an existing two story building constructed in 1968 on the University of Alaska campus. The existing building has strong bones in the form of a repeating grid of concrete precast panels, but it has poor natural day lighting, and long, low corridors.

Light from glazed, double height space at building's midpoint.
It also lacks a gathering space for students outside of classrooms. The renovation of this structure will include opening up the interior by means of a glazed, double height space cut into the building at its midpoint.

This ‘slice of light’ will create a well-lit gathering space for students and will invite them to participate in more informal learning with other students and instructors outside of class.

Clusters of comfortable furniture will allow students to interact in small groups. The new gathering area will also include ten wall mounted, four foot by four foot resin panel light boxes that display images or photos connected to the study of nature and culture being carried out by resident faculty and students.
Another view of the "slice of light" atrium.
The influence of the new space will radiate out into the rest of the building by means of bright accent colors in the main corridors and the general replacement of existing finishes with more inviting materials and colors.

Goodbye asbestos
Construction 40 years ago included asbestos, and BMH has plenty of it. Renovation means  removing all of it. While that means workers will be basically gutting the building, Baum repeated that “BMH has good bones,” and the exterior will retain much of the look it has today, with one big exception: the sun-loving atrium that Baum and the architect have dubbed “a slice of light.” It pierces the building just off-center, adding illumination to a structure that has been dark inside for a very long time.

The building will receive substantial upgrades and changes in its architectural, structural, mechanical and electrical systems. It will contain 10 laboratories, an herbarium, a lecture hall and a student gathering space. In addition, there will be six general classrooms serving the university campus-wide.

Baum, as a designer of space, walked BMH and observed its hallways. She noticed students frequently slumped to the floor studying, finding no place but the ground to sit down.

The redesigned BMH will take care of that problem, she says. The new atrium will have clusters of seats allowing students to study in groups or just gather and relax.

Placement of back-lit botanical images.
1% for Art
A 1 Percent for Art call for work is out now for local photographers to provide 10-12 high resolution images of nature that will be mounted on light boxes illuminated from behind by LED lights. According to details provided in the Alaska State Council on the Arts call for work, the art committee is interested in macro photography, photographs of Alaskan plant life, botanical, aquatic or archaeological specimens, or photographs connected to the study of nature and culture from all regions of the state. Proposals for this artwork are due by June 28, 2013.

“We have a building filled with botanists, ecologists and scientists,” Baum said. “We want the art to reflect the nature of their work.”

Who was Beatrice McDonald?
Beatrice McDonald
It hardly seems appropriate to spend this much space talking about a building without reminding our audience who Beatrice McDonald was. The University of Alaska maintains an archive of notable people from all of its campuses. That’s where I found this picture of McDonald, and biographical details. She was an associate professor of office administration when the community college first opened in 1954 as a small adult evening school operating at West High.

A citation honoring her reads:

"Beatrice McDonald, who became the pillar of the school of business since the college was founded, and whose many students are now the competent career women of Anchorage."

After returning to Massachusetts for a master’s degree at Boston University, she returned to Alaska and revised the college’s two-year associate in arts program in office administration.  You can read more about her at her bio page on the UA site

About those big rocks
A story in the Anchorage Daily News from November 27, 1995 offers the history. They are 320 million to 360 million years old! They come from the Red Dog Mine area near Kotzebue, and a junior geology major surveying the mining site came up with the plan to save them and donate them to UAA:

Dan Stone was surveying for the Red Dog Mine near Kotzebue last year when he hatched a plan to save the two ancient rocks.

The black concretions -- compacted mineral masses -- had survived being blasted from a sedimentary rock bed the previous year at Red Dog, the state's largest mine. Mine operators kept them because of their unusual size and shapes, said Gary Coulter, a geologist with Cominco, which operates the lead and zinc mine.

Unlike the oval- and basketball-size concretions normally discovered at the mine, one of the desk-sized rocks is round and the other is peanut-shaped, Coulter said. Each weighs at least 1,400 pounds and is 320 million to 360 million years old, he said.

Last September, the mine decided to push the rocks over an embankment and out of the way.

That's when Stone offered an alternative: Donate them to University of Alaska Anchorage.

''First I called UAA's geology department to see if they were interested in taking them as donations,'' said Stone, a 40-year-old UAA junior studying geology.

''I said, 'Go ahead. It sounds wonderful,' '' recalled geology professor Anne Pasch.

After four months of finagling, Stone secured the rocks for the university. Company officials threw in a 3,200-pound chunk of zinc ore. If refined, the zinc -- which constitutes 18 percent of the chunk -- could be worth up to $25,000, Pasch said.

With Northern Air Cargo donating transportation worth $10,000, Stone had the rocks flown to Anchorage last December. They were kept in storage until three weeks ago.

Now the rocks are settled atop a bed of white granite east of the
Beatrice McDonald Building, the main site for geology classes. The Geology Club is working to get permanent plaques to describe them.

Unusual spectacles to the campus landscape, the quartz concretions are raising curiosity. Many students stand over them wondering what they are, Stone said. ''One guy even kicked the rock shaped like a ball to see if it was real.''

In addition, inquiries are pouring into the university's grounds department, according to grounds supervisor Pat Leary.

Pasch said the concretions make the campus more interesting and inform people about geology.

''It's part of educational outreach,'' she said. ''We'll use them for our own students, but we'll also use it for the general public.''

The rocks are the start of a geological garden the university has contemplated for the past 20 years, Pasch said. Ultimately, the garden will feature specimens from around the state.

Blocks of jade and old mining equipment would be nice, Stone said, or maybe the couch-size concretion found recently at the mine. ''Who knows,'' he said, ''getting the mine to donate that one may be my project for next year.''


Anonymous said...

I love it! Great idea and more sitting areas!

Anonymous said...

Pat Leary has retired, I think? She was a marvelous grounds supervisor, and would be an appropriate subject of your columns.