The future of Walker Memorial remains a mystery to administrators and student groups alike. In October 2010, members of the administration, including Associate Provost Martin A. Schmidt PhD ’88, announced that plans were in the works to assess the feasibility of a project to repurpose and restore Walker Memorial for use by the Music and Theater Arts department (MTA). Although progress has been made on the project over the summer and this past semester, there is no clear end in sight.
“The evaluation of the renovation of Walker to support MTA’s needs has taken longer than expected, in part due to the complexities of accommodating the acoustic requirements of some of the spaces” Schmidt said in an email to The Tech. “While we don’t have a timeline for a decision, we are confident that Walker will remain available for current users though this academic year”.
Much of the progress made on the project is by the Walker Memorial Assessment Team (WMAT), a group comprised of a student representative from the Graduate Student Council (GSC), Undergraduate Association (UA), and Association of Student Activities (ASA), along with several administrators, including Schmidt. In an effort to accurately capture how the building is used and how groups would be affected if Walker were repurposed, WMAT has been in contact with the student groups that occupy space in or otherwise use Walker. The WMAT GSC representative, Brian L. Spatocco G, said that much of the work in talking to the individual groups — in addition to presenting relocation options — was done over the summer and the past semester. He also stressed that in giving the recommendations, WMAT is trying its best to accommodate the needs of each student group while coming up with “creative” ways to find space for them elsewhere on campus.
“We’re doing a lot sensitive work with regards to this matter and have come up with a lot of interesting sites [for potential relocation] that we think people might not have thought much of before,” Spatocco said.
What will happen to Morss Hall’s status as a large event space after this year is still unclear. Spatocco said WMAT is still in the process of thinking “as creatively and openly as we can” to find a solution to something that could substitute for the large event space. GSC President Alex J. Evans G said that the fate of Morss Hall was his biggest concern that has yet to be addressed by WMAT.
The design for Walker Memorial’s repurposing has also not been finalized. The architects hired in the spring are still working with both WMAT and Music and Theater Arts Head Janet Sonenburg to develop and revise the design. If the project is feasible, Walker will be restored and repaired, taking care of deferred maintenance on the building. It could serve as a more unified area for the MTA department, complete with performance space.
Once their work is complete and a report is compiled, WMAT will present it to senior level administrators to make the decision on whether to repurpose Walker. Until that time, no final decision will be made, and Walker will remain open for use.
“The design process is still ongoing,” Sonenberg said, “Nothing has been settled yet”.