Bureaucracy Inaction: Old Georgetown Board doesn’t really do anything about the new dorm

Before we all ended up on a rapid downward spiral, drunk on the sight of tentative sketches, thankfully, the Old Georgetown Board made the non-decision we all needed to be yanked back to reality.

The architects have repeatedly assured the student body, no doubt utterly terrified by the spitting revulsion it emitted after seeing the initial design, that this design is far from final, and this was reflected in the information session given by Sasaki at the OGB meeting yesterday.

The Board decided they will “wait until [they] take any action,” meaning that the Northeast Triangle dorm still has a long way to go before the Board makes an official decision to approve or disapprove it. This presentation was intended to present some facts about plans for the new dorm; it was not the final case for approval.

The “take no action” resolution by the three-man Old Georgetown Board came at around 10 a.m., on the heels of a 30-minute presentation by Gregory Janks, a member of Sasaki Associates, the architecture firm hired by Georgetown University to design the Northeast Triangle dorm.

While approval of the dorm’s design was not expected at Wednesday’s hearing, the litany of criticisms offered by members of the board suggested it would be some time before the proposal receives the OGB’s blessing.

Chief among the board’s complaints were concerns that the dorm might eat up valuable green space on the campus – replacing it with what OGB chairman David Cox described as “a chute between the long side of the new building and the long side of the Reiss building.”

Janks countered with a claim that the design of the Northeast Triangle dorm preserves 50 percent of the open space in what is now a secluded green area.

The OGB had the last word, however, with Tim Dennée, a historian in the D.C. Historic Preservation Office, commenting, “I think there is an unfortunate expedience that is driving this project.”

Through the architectural nuance and bureaucratic back-and-forth, though, the hearing was able to provide insight into what additional effects the ambitious 2010 Campus Plan might have on the Hilltop. Mr. Janks made continual reference to two additional sites for new student housing – Harbin Terrace and the Kober Cogan facility, which is currently owned by Medstar Georgetown University Hospital.

Janks noted that construction of all three proposed dorms would create around 700 new beds on campus, a figure he claimed was necessary to meet the university’s goal of having 90 percent of all students live on the Hilltop by 2025.

Time constraints then turned the conversation to the already-approved plan for a new athletic training facility next to the McDonough arena. Talk within the OGB gravitated towards the finer points of the architectural design – the number of recesses in its external walls, the re-articulation of certain arches, and, seemingly most important, the width of things called “mullions.”

Sensing little controversy and impending drowsiness, Vox quietly left the hearing room.

Photo courtesy Sasaki Associates

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