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The bulk of the renovation will be to the back wing of the building, pictured, which will be removed and replaced with a new addition.

Martin Hall

digital rendering of what the future Arts Plaza will look like
The Arts Plaza reimagines an underutilized space and creates a pedestrian-friendly outdoor gathering area.


Edward Martin Biological Library
students sitting at a table doing homework in the library
digital rendering of the new Martin Biological Library
When Martin Biological Laboratory was built in 1937, it was hailed nationally as a state-of-the-art facility bringing together cutting-edge research and teaching. Named for surgeon, teacher, former member of the Board of Managers, and graduate of the Class of 1878, Edward Martin, the building supported a robust biology department, offering students hands-on classroom and independent research opportunities and faculty the facilities to explore the wide-ranging field of biological inquiry.

The relocation of the biology department to the newly constructed Maxine Frank Singer Hall in 2019 created an opportunity to reimagine how Martin Hall could serve students and faculty—offering the space and resources to support the intellectual curiosity, creativity, and innovation that serve as hallmarks of a Swarthmore education. Through a study led by the Provost’s Office at the direction of President Valerie Smith, Computer Science and Film and Media Studies—growing departments with increasing demands on their already limited office, laboratory, and classroom spaces—were identified as anchors for a renewed Martin Hall, which will also create an interdisciplinary, technological center for all of campus.

department-specific “living rooms” will provide both students and faculty informal  space to study, connect, and socialize
Department-specific “living rooms” will provide both students and faculty informal space to study, connect, and socialize.

Computer Science

female student working in a computer lab
Over the last ten years, the number of Computer Science majors increased by more than 400% to an average of 60 majors per graduating class. And, not surprisingly for a liberal arts college, more students are recognizing the benefits of understanding and utilizing the power of computing to help analyze data or inform philosophical debates in subjects as varied as political science, literature, psychology, and mathematics. This has meant an even greater demand for Computer Science courses. In the Class of 2020, 55% of all graduates—229 students out of 418—took at least one Computer Science course during their time on campus.

During the construction of the Science Center in the early 2000s, however, Computer Science had only about a dozen majors. Today, with courses maxing out enrollment and additional faculty being added to meet demand, the Science Center is unable to accommodate the needs of the department. With just three Computer Science classrooms—one of which is in Clothier—the rooms must fit more students than planned.

The Computer Science faculty want to break down the cultural stereotypes about what computing is and who belongs in computing. The Martin renovation supports that goal by providing spaces for collaboration, creativity, and critical inquiry.”
—Ameet Soni, Associate Professor of Computer Science
The renovation of Martin Hall will create five new Computer Science classrooms with U-shaped layouts and movable furniture to provide maximum flexibility. The new space in Martin will allow students to collaborate on projects, prepare for class, and receive assistance from peer mentors. These classrooms and labs will include computers to provide students with equal access to resources and will be situated close to faculty offices for additional support.

Students who study technology in a liberal arts setting bring a multi-dimensional perspective and skill set to the professional world, and our recent Computer Science graduates have benefited from this experience. According to the Career Services annual report, 27% of members of the Class of 2020 who pursued employment after graduation landed jobs in technology and engineering—with computer science majors making up the largest share of that group. Swarthmore Computer Science graduates go on to top graduate schools including MIT, Stanford, and Berkeley, and they work at technology companies including Google and Facebook as well as many innovative start-ups.

Render showing the renovations to an inside upper floor
Shared seating areas, like this one located on the first floor, are situated throughout the building to encourage spontaneous conversation and cross- departmental collaboration.

Film and Media Studies

student film crew filming on a campus walkway

Film and Media Studies complements courses in the history, theory, aesthetic, and cultural dimensions of media forms with hands-on production opportunities. The hybrid curriculum brings a liberal arts perspective to media forms, including cinema, television, online video, digital games, and media art and encourages students’ critical and creative engagement. Students from across the College enroll in Film and Media Studies courses to learn analytical and production skills crucial to twenty-first century citizenship.

All of this has been accomplished, to date, without a dedicated classroom or a production studio. The renovation of Martin will add a 44-seat screening room designed for public programs as well as teaching and discussion; a black box studio equipped with green screen; a Media Gallery to display student or visiting artists’ work for the public; and video and audio editing suites for students from all disciplines to use.

Liberal arts colleges have taken the lead in integrating critical analysis of media with digital production skills. Our production students know media history and theory, and our critical studies students use media tools in their projects.”
—Patricia White, Centennial Professor of Film and Media Studies
Recent graduates of Film and Media Studies have gone on to prestigious film schools and Ph.D. programs, had their work exhibited at festivals such as South by Southwest and Sundance, work in documentary and entertainment film and television, and are pursuing careers in criticism, game design, law, and news media.

Technology and the Academic Experience

The renovation of Martin Hall is about more than additional space for a couple of academic departments. It is a purposeful choice to bring technology and art together to teach students how to create — and critique — both.

This commitment is emphasized by the decision to move the Media Center into Martin Hall. The Media Center provides hands-on instruction in digital storytelling, video production, motion graphics, animation, and photography to all students. An expression of the College’s values of equity and inclusion, the Media Center offers hardware and software to students who would not otherwise be able to afford those resources and training on how to use them. Whether students study engineering or art, the skills they develop through the support of the Media Center better prepare them for success in the modern workforce.

The Arts Plaza providing a physical connection between Martin Hall, Lang Performing Arts Center, and Lang Music Building
The Arts Plaza provides a physical connection between Martin Hall, Lang Performing Arts Center, and Lang Music Building (left to right).

Campus Connection

As a residential liberal arts college, all of Swarthmore’s buildings must meet the needs of the entire community as places to learn, as well as to gather in community. In addition to benefitting the faculty and students in Film and Media Studies and Computer Science, through this renovation the campus will gain an outdoor arts plaza, an auditorium, and event space to use for lectures and film screenings.

The bulk of the renovation will be to the back wing of the building, which will be removed and replaced with a new addition. This addition will have a glass facade to bring more light into the space and will provide larger open areas for students across departments and divisions to study and socialize. The renovation also will allow easier access to and through the building by removing the steps on the front facade.

I am thrilled about this project, about the representatives from one of our most esteemed disciplines in the arts and humanities sharing space with one of our most central and popular disciplines in the natural sciences and engineering.”
—Sarah Willie-LeBreton, Provost and Dean of the Faculty
The arts plaza, situated between Martin Hall, Lang Music Building, and Lang Performing Arts Center, will reimagine Whittier Circle from an access road to a destination in and of itself. The plaza will enhance the landscape and improve the entrance for guests attending performances, exhibits, or receptions in all three buildings. A new hub for the arts at Swarthmore will draw together music, dance, theater, and film and provide rich programming for the campus, local, and regional community as well as new opportunities for collaboration and creativity.

Finally, the renovation will prepare Martin Hall to join the College’s new geo-thermal exchange system, an important part of the Energy Plan: Roadmap to Zero Carbon that will replace the hot-water system with a combustion-free alternative.

digital rendering of the new entrance to Martin Hall with soaring windows and abundant natural light
The current rear entrance to Martin will become a stunning gathering space with soaring windows, abundant natural light, and access to a screening room, studio, and black box theater.

Your Opportunity

student working on laptop while wearing a medical mask
student at desktop computer working on a video editing program
digital rendering of the Martin Hall renovation
The renovation of Martin Hall is a long-term investment that will benefit the entire Swarthmore community. Through this renovation, Martin Hall will become a bridge that connects the arts and sciences, campus and nature, and the past and future at Swarthmore College. In addition to creating purposeful and permanent homes for the Film and Media Studies and Computer Science departments, the renovation reimagines an aging but iconic building, preserving its history while transforming it into a community resource. The renovation infuses sustainability and a connection to nature, and creates opportunities to gather, make, and learn for students, faculty, and staff. Swarthmore College needs your leadership gift to help make the vision of the new Martin Hall a reality.

For more information, please contact:
Renée P. Atkinson, Associate Vice President for Advancement
610-328-8323 | ratkins1@swarthmore.edu

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Thank you for your continued support!