The project will preserve the acclaimed International style of Cutter-Ziskind student housing complex, which serves as a teaching tool for history of art and architecture scholars.

NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—Campus visitors will soon notice initial groundwork for a phased two-year renovation of Smith College’s Cutter-Ziskind student housing complex, a project that will preserve the structure’s architectural style while updating the interior and improving energy efficiency.

OPTIONA_VESTIBULE_2_revisedlandscapeThe complex, designed in the International style, is located across from the Campus Center on Elm Street. Predominantly white in color, the residence consists of two three-story student houses, which are joined by a dining room.

“The style represents a utopian phase of 20th-century cultural history, when designers attempted to break completely with all historic styles of the past and craft an original way of living that announced the new era of modernity,” said John Davis, Alice Pratt Brown Professor of Art, who regularly assigns students to study and write about the house.

“It is a wonderful tool for teaching.”

Most of the renovation is scheduled to take place during the summers of 2013 and 2014, but an initial phase will be visible in March when crews replace water lines in the middle of campus. That work will later allow the lines to be extended across Elm Street to air-condition the residence.

The construction schedule is based on breaks in classes to ensure that the 162 students in the house are not displaced. The project is expected to be completed by the time students return for the 2014 fall semester.

Opened in 1957, the structure has changed little in its 46 years. The renovation, designed by Perkins+Will, will enhance the living space by improving energy efficiency and introducing new furnishings and lighting, said Davis.

The design of the complex is based on a single rectilinear unit that is repeated throughout the houses. It demonstrates the “piloti” or point-support system with disengaged piers that hold up the framework of the second and third floors, according to Davis.

RampViewNEW_001The project includes the installation of a new stormwater retention system that will provide on-site lawn and landscape irrigation and a redesign of the courtyard garden, located between the two wings and behind the Elm Street wall.

The International style was common in the decades of the 40s, 50s and 60s in the United States, largely in commercial architecture. “It is somewhat more rare to see it in an educational context,” said Davis.

The original architects of Cutter-Ziskind, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, also designed International style skyscrapers, including Lever House and the Manufacturers Hanover Trust Building in New York City.

One house is named after Jacob Ziskind, an industrialist and whose sisters had attended Smith and whose generosity made the project possible. The other is named in honor of Elizabeth Reeve Cutter Morrow, Class of 1896, who served the college in various capacities, including president of the Alumnae Association, chair of the Board of Trustees and acting president of the college.

Renovation Timeline

March 2013

Replace waterlines in central campus in preparation to later extend the lines across Elm Street to air-condition Cutter Ziskind.

Summer 2013

  • Replace the single-pane exterior windows with new, insulated windows.
  • Replace the roof with new membrane and additional insulation.
  • Renovate and refurbish the dining room and kitchen to foster efficiencies in the kitchen and improve flow through the serving lines.
  • Fill in the sunken courtyard so that it is level with the first floor and can become an extension of the dining room. This will allow for a new entrance to be added off the courtyard so that students from other houses can dine in Cutter-Ziskind without passing through the lobby.
  • Install a new stormwater retention system for on-site storage capacity for lawn and landscape irrigation.

Summer 2014

  • Introduce new furnishing and lighting in the common areas, student rooms and corridors.
  • Modernize the showers and bathrooms.
  • Install elevators along with new mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.

Smith College educates women of promise for lives of distinction. One of the largest women’s colleges in the United States, Smith enrolls 2,600 students from nearly every state and 62 other countries.

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