Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
December 11, 2023

Construction unhindered by hurricane

By NASH JENKINS | September 14, 2011

The Brody Learning Commons construction is business as usual, according the Commons' construction blog. The extreme weather of the first weeks of the semester failed to impede building progress. Since the Commons' frame has been roofed since early summer, recent rainfall was not a concern and proved innocuous.

July 2012 remains the scheduled opening date, giving library staff sufficient time to migrate into the Commons and prepare before the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, according to Brian Shields, the Communications and Marketing Manager for the Sheridan Libraries.

The four-story building sits atop the Beach, adjacent to MSE, and will expand the library's space and functions by including, among other things, additional study areas. With upwards of 500 seats, the Commons will increase the library's seating capacity by nearly a third.

Despite the on-schedule pace, the omnipresence of construction continues to pose inconveniences to the Homewood campus. Upperclassmen returned to campus this fall to see significant structural advancements to the building, but little reprieve from the continuing advancement's annoyances; freshmen arrived at Hopkins to find their daytime studying in the upper levels of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library impeded by the noise of cranes, drills and workers.

Construction crews man the site from seven in the morning until three in the afternoon from Monday through Friday, requiring a descent into the bowels of the library for those students seeking respite from noise while working. D-level, for example, is now rarely desolate in the daytime hours.

Beyond the library, the construction site obstructs the walk from Charles Street south of the Beach and the Mattin Center into Keyser Quad. Access from the Mattin Center to the Keyser Quad via Maryland Hall is presently unavailable.

Students have responded to the inconveniences with degrees of irritation.

"The [construction's] largest impediment to my daily life is largely due to it being such an eyesore. Construction's never a pretty process," freshman Sean Donohue said.

However, amidst aggravation, anticipation lingers.

"I'm eager for the Brody Learning Commons to be complete," freshman Alexis Gannaway said. "I frequently go to the library and I usually study on M-level — a floor that enables people to not only work individually, but also be able to have conversations with fellow students. This floor is usually extremely busy and having extra room in a similar space will be great."

Indeed, some students were eager for the Commons' completion.

"I'm very excited to see how the Brody Learning Commons will alter the studying dynamics of future and current Hopkins students. I believe it truly will show how dedicated the Johns Hopkins administration is to the betterment of its student body and will only add to the functionality and beauty of our campus," Donohue said.

The Commons, which the university slates to open in July 2012, is named in honor of Dr. William R. Brody, Hopkins' thirteenth president, whose twelve-year tenure ended in 2008.

 "Bill and Wendy Brody sought to connect the people and ideas that would enrich our students' academic and social lives, expand the creativity of our university and embrace our community. This building, which by its very design will foster the kinds of connections and discoveries that the Brodys sought to encourage, is a fitting tribute to Bill and Wendy," said Winston Tabb, Dean of University Libraries and Museums at the Commons' "Topping Off" ceremony in May, at which a white I-beam autographed by hundreds of members of the Hopkins community was secured to the upper level of the Commons' steel skeleton.

The Brody Learning Commons is the creative brainchild of the Boston-and-Phoenix-based architecture firm Shepley Bulfinch, whose portfolio includes the edifices of Stanford, Harvard and Yale, and continues in both the Homewood tradition of stately red brick and the university's inclination in the past decade towards campus beautification.

Shields elaborated on the Commons' design and function as largely remedial to the woes of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library.

"This project is a number of years in the making," Shields said, citing students' concerns with the library, chiefly the lack of natural light and consequent institutional feel to the levels below M, as influential and instructive to the Commons' blueprints.

A spacious café will replace the minimalist Café Q on the library's Q-level; a resplendent, well-lit 100-seat reading room will provide an alternative to the library's present study areas.

"This truly is the students' building," Shields said, paraphrasing Dean Tabb's adherence to the interests of the Homewood community relevant to the construction of the Commons.

Last November, for example, Tabb placed twenty-four different chairs on the M-level of the library. Students voted on which they preferred; the winners will be featured in the Commons' study, lounge, and café areas. One can view the furniture selected, as well as construction updates and images, on the Commons' construction blog (, which Shields updates regularly.

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