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Vol.26, No. 06 Oct. 16, 2000

Social Work Breaks Ground for New Building

By James DeVitt

One hundred and two years after its founding, Columbia’s School of Social Work broke ground Oct. 18 on a new $31.2 million facility at 113th Street between Broadway and Riverside Drive.

The structure will be the first building in the school’s history designed expressly for professional social work education and is scheduled for completion in September 2002.

Since its inception in 1898, the school has had five locations, including the Carnegie Mansion, located on Fifth Avenue at 91st St.

Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony, President George Rupp said the new facility is a “building of social work that will be worthy of the school’s pre-eminence.”

Provost Jonathan Cole, added, “This facility is going to directly meet the needs of the students, the faculty and the community.”

The new building will house a library and 13 classrooms. The School of Social Work last had a library in its building 30 years ago. McVickar Hall, the school’s home since 1971, will continue to serve as the school’s research facility. Faculty and administrative offices will also remain at McVickar, situated across the street from the new building.

“The new facility will provide much needed opportunities to employ contemporary information technologies, new classroom settings, different instructional modalities and creative linkages between instruction in the classroom and in the field," said Ronald Feldman, dean of the School of Social Work. "It will advance the School of Social Work even further at the forefront of social work education and will help to assure Columbia’s leadership in social work education far into the new century."

The school conducts research in a wide range of areas, including aging, international social welfare, AIDS prevention and families and children.

The building was designed by Cooper, Robertson & Partners, a New York City firm whose work includes the new Stuyvesant High School, the Duke University Clinic and the School of Business at Ohio State University. The firm was chosen, in part, for its expertise in designing buildings that are consistent with the architecture of neighboring structures, according to senior assistant dean David Yam. The 62,000 square-foot building will be 10 stories high, with two stories below street level, and will be 136 feet tall.

"This building offers a chance to create a whole new image for the School of Social Work," said project manager Tom Wittrock, a senior associate at Cooper, Robertson.

The University has been meeting with members of the community since April to discuss the new facility’s design. During this process, neighborhood residents are asked to comment on design elements of the building, choice of materials and the impact of the new building and its construction on the neighborhood.

"We’re confident we can create a building that will provide a new identity for the school and fit in on the block," said Wittrock.