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News & Events for the Smith College Community
New Neilson May 9, 2018

What’s New with the Neilson Project?

Rendering of the south elevation of Neilson Library. Copyright 2017 Maya Lin Studio.

Work on Neilson Library is set to fully resume the week after Commencement, following a six-week schedule adjustment.

While behind-the-scenes work on the project continued after the unexpected March 9 collapse of the building’s west pavilion cornice, demolition and heavy construction have been temporarily on hold. (No one was injured in the March 9 collapse, and no surrounding buildings or trees were damaged.)

Since March 9, construction crews have installed high-strength steel cables to secure the east pavilion cornice.

“We now have what we feel is a safe and secure façade,” says Peter Gagnon, Smith’s director of capital construction, “and we’re good to go, with some less disruptive work starting the week of May 14 and major demolition the week after Commencement. We’ll also be mindful of Reunion.”

As planned, the core of the original 1906 Neilson will be incorporated in a new library building envisioned by designer Maya Lin that is expected to be open for the Fall 2020 semester.

Here’s what else Gagnon had to say about the library project.

What’s been happening on the library site since March 9?

“The first thing the contractors did was to expand the protective fence around the east façade, which was built the same way as the west. Over the next several weeks, we worked to understand what happened with the west cornice. We still don’t have a definitive answer—and that may take some time. We have specialists doing forensic work to help us further understand what the masonry is like on the old structure.

“The engineering solution we chose [going forward] has been installed over the past few weeks: adding steel cables to the interior side of the east façade to make it stable and safe. Given that we are in the period of final exams, graduation and reunion, we are building a schedule with those events in mind.”

Is the project on schedule?

“We are optimistic that the project remains on schedule, and we’re in the process of a detailed schedule analysis for confirmation. We’ve not been sitting idle for the past six weeks—a lot is going on behind the scenes.  

Were there any regulatory violations involved in the cornice collapse?

“No. We informed everyone we needed to inform about the event, and there have been no issues.”

What will be happening on the site in the near future?

“We’ll be doing some hammering and ‘munching’ starting on May 14. (That’s the claw attached to the high-reach excavator that looks like a dinosaur chewing the building.) Demolition really kicks in the week after Commencement and into June, when we start removing the foundation of the north face. That will involve some jack hammering. Later this summer and into the fall, we’ll start to pour the foundations and bring in steel. That’s when people will really start to see the new building taking shape.”

The latest updates about Neilson construction are available online. Members of the Smith community may also subscribe to updates and news about the Neilson Library construction project by visiting this link and clicking the blue “Join this group” button.