Breaking Grounds: WU’s flurry of construction continues into school year

| Senior News Editor

Following commencement in May, Washington University broke ground on its largest capital project to date while continuing work on two other sites—Olin Library and Bryan Hall/Overpass, also known as the Driving Discovery project.

With initial excavation on the East End nearing completion, Washington University community members will begin to see these projects take shape over the course of the fall semester. Olin Library is slated for completion by the end of the fall semester.

Construction is going on by the Overpass currently.Student Life Photo Staff

Construction is going on by the Overpass currently.


While Olin Library experienced a setback due to the discovery of a rock shelf, University Architect James Kolker said he is confident that the East End project will be substantially complete in May 2019.

“We’ve gotten pretty far into the excavation without finding significant rock that would cause a delay. It would be unlikely that there will be a similar surprise to what we found there,” Kolker said.

While the majority of the East End buildings will be complete in 2019, McKelvey Hall—the future home of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering—will take an additional year of construction.

In the midst of construction, the University has maintained its commitment to sustainability by saving wood from trees torn down in the beginning stages of construction. Kolker estimates that 10,000 feet of wood will be utilized for furniture in some of the new buildings, especially in Schnuck Pavilion which will house the food service venue.

In order to maximize capacity on the East End of campus, potential underground space has been reserved to house future programs and increase the connectivity between buildings.

“The underground parking garage—which is being built to accommodate potential reuse as a programming space if our car need ever should diminish, which we hope it will over the decade—can occupy that space with programs right adjacent to the engineering buildings and the Sam Fox buildings as well,” Kolker said.


Prior to the start of classes, the blocked sidewalk on the north side of Olin will be opened, allowing students to travel on both sides of the library. In October, the library’s main entrance will shift to the north, allowing space for construction on the south entrance. By the end of the semester, students will be able to walk through Olin’s newly completed passageway, which will house Thomas Gallery and other exhibition spaces made more visible by the new entrance.


The path leading from main campus to the Forest Park Parkway bridge, also known as the Overpass, will be opened by the start of classes. However, construction on the bridge itself is delayed until summer 2018 due to “ongoing negotiations with University City management and highways,” according to Kolker. The bridge, slated to be 18 feet wide with separate pedestrian and bicycle paths, serves as a major point of access to the Danforth Campus.


In anticipation of move-in day on Aug. 24 and 25, permit parking in Zone 2 and 4 is prohibited. According to Rob Wild, associate vice chancellor for student transitions and engagement
and dean of students, over one thousand extra vehicles will be on the Danforth campus during that two-day period. In order to meet the parking needs of parents, all other members of the Washington University community will be required to park in Forest Park in reserved lots.

“We realized early on that when faced with the choice of sending our new families to a remote parking site versus our students, faculty, and staff, we’re probably better served by asking people on those two days in specific zones to park over in Forest Park in specific lots that we’ve reserved,” Wild said.

The University’s limitation on parking is occurring in preparation for other large-scale events, including Parent and Family Weekend, ThurtenE Carnival and Commencement, according to Wild. Kolker noted that more individuals are walking along Forest Park Parkway and Forsyth Boulevard, respectively, and funneling into campus from the sides.

“It shows the need for a nice connection at the North Side of campus and the core. Forest Park Parkway long-term needs to be a nicer place to walk. It’s narrow with obstacles and cars zooming by. It’s been an interesting experiment in traffic flow over the summer,” Kolker said.


Despite operating within the midst of three separate and unique construction projects, Kolker remains focused on what’s to come. Demolitions and ground-breaking ceremonies aren’t necessarily in Washington University’s future; every university experiences an ebb and flow in terms of capital project. The next phase? Renovation and transformation.

“I think a big focus will be what do we do with our historic, original buildings on campus that need some attention…to get the best efficiency out of them and bring them up to current standards,” Kolker said.

The East End project allows the University to have “swing space,” or existing structures to be used for temporary occupancy during a renovation or construction project. Kolker believes the project is more than a set of new academic buildings, but an opportunity for the University to make strategic moves to place both individuals and departments in optimal locations.

“My sense is it’s going to be less about new buildings and more about reuse of our existing buildings. East campus allows us that room to make some shifts and make some changes and do some renovations. We don’t have that ‘swing space’ today where we can move a department and renovate their building,” Kolker said.

The University’s outlook extends to the South 40, specifically traditional dorms in need of refurbishment. Kolker mentioned Lee/Beaumont residential college as the next project the University will undertake.

“That’s our next project that we’re just getting underway with design and doing the best we can with some constraints of that building but also making it accessible, open it up as much as possible and really bring it up to current standards,” Kolker said. “Let’s invest in Lee and Beaumont to have it be as good as it can be for the next number of years.”