Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
Making It Modern

Academics

Balfour-Hood Center

Balfour-Hood Center: Elevations from West to North. Bastille-Neiley/Amsler Hagenah MacLean. Paper, ink, foamcore. 58 x 90 cm. 1984.Balfour-Hood Center: Cross Sections. Bastille-Neiley/Amsler Hagenah MacLean. Paper, ink, foamcore. 58 x 90 cm. 1984.

Landscape Design Plan: SAB to Balfour-Hood Renovation. Bastille-Neiley/Amsler Hagenah MacLean Architects, Inc. Paper, ink. 62 x 92 cm. 1985.Rendering of Wheaton College Campus Center. Unidentified Artist. Pencil, paper. 40.5  50 cm. 1984.

Balfour-Hood Center was constructed to encompass SAB with the intent of preserving and modernizing the structure. The addition was designed by Kenneth MacLean and Robert Neiley from the architectural firms Amsler Hagenah MacLean and Bastille-Neiley. The Balfour-Hood addition is in Post-Modern style, a movement originally created as a critique of Modernism. Because the addition historically preserves the old SAB structure, the use of post-modernism adds a touch of irony, as its brick and white cast metal trim mimic SAB’s original building materials.

The building is oriented at a 90-degree angle to the traditional campus and holds a commanding presence among the structures built around Chapel Field. The most distinctive feature of the 1986 addition is the flying wall, which runs east to west connecting Upper Campus to Lower Campus and Peacock Pond. The long slender feel of Balfour-Hood serves as a metaphorical reference to its function as a bridge between the Upper and Lower Campuses.

The interior of Balfour-Hood was designed to incorporate, but not destroy, SAB. A special concern of alumnae was the Yellow Parlor, originally located in Everett Hall and moved to SAB in 1941. Because the room was particularly important to the centennial class of 1935, alumnae worked closely with the architects to recreate a Yellow Parlor in Balfour-Hood Center. Similarly, the new building’s atrium replaces functions served by Plimpton Hall as it provides an arena for dances and other social gatherings. In the tradition of SAB, Balfour-Hood includes offices for student organizations such as the Wheaton Wire and Student Government Association. In contrast to the old building, Balfour-Hood houses administrative offices such as the Office of Student Life, as well as the campus Media Center.

-Eric Brownstein, Class of 2009

Balfour-Hood Center Under Construction. Unidentified Photographer. Photograph. 27.7 x 35.5 cm. ca. 1985.Balfour-Hood Center at Night. Steve Rosenthal. Photograph. 21.3 x 27.7 cm. 1986.Balfour-Hood Center's Flying Wall. Steve Rosenthal. Photograph. 20.3  27.7 cm. 1986.

The long Post-Modern flying wall photographed on the left adds a decorative elegance to the center of campus. The repeating theme of perfectly square plate glass windows along the wall references the row of classical columns adorning the entrance to buildings on upper campus. Particular attention was placed on the spacing and size of the rows of square windows. From bottom to top, they decrease in size from 9 square feet to 6 feet to 3 feet. This decorative choice resembles a pyramid, mimicking the triangular effect repeated on the atrium floor and in Balfour-Hood’s skylights. The flying wall extension beyond the corner of Plimpton Hall contains an enormous false window. The 10 foot square concrete cut out frames the brick exterior of Plimpton Hall. The flying wall is an example of the playful tension that Post-Modern architecture brings to campus, and it is one of Balfour-Hood’s greatest strengths and weaknesses. It references Modernist campus structures in its materials and imitations of shapes while still poking fun at its predecessor’s style.

- Eric Brownstein, Class of 2009

Interior of Balfour-Hood Center. Evan Massar. Photograph. 1986.Interior of Balfour-Hood Center. Evan Massar. Photograph 2 of 2. 1986.Balfour-Hood Center Dedication: President Alice F. Emerson and Emily Hood (Class of 1953). Unidentified Photographer. Photograph. 12 x 18 cm. 1986.

The candid photograph to the upper right captures Wheaton’s first female president Alice F. Emerson and Wheaton Trustee Emily Hood (Class of 1953) as they cut the dedication ribbon of the new Balfour-Hood Center. The building was named on May 30, 1986, after its primary donors: the Balfour Foundation and the Gilbert Hood family. Lloyd G. and Mildred Balfour were long-time friends of Wheaton, and Mr. Hood was a Wheaton Trustee and father of alumna Emily Hood. During her tenure, President Emerson also oversaw the renovation and additions to the Wallace Library, the renovation of Mary Lyon Hall, and the construction of Haas Athletic Center.

-Maria Escudero, Class of 2010

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