Swarthmore College Trotter Hall

Swarthmore, PA

Nearly every older academic institution has one: a handsome older building, beloved of alumni for its capacity to evoke fond memories, but completely unsuited to contemporary purposes. At Swarthmore College, that would be Trotter Hall, one of the original classroom buildings. While the exterior’s stately simplicity gave it an important role in the overall campus architecture, decades of ad hoc alterations to the interior, combined with the increasingly urgent need for more space, resulted in narrow hallways, overcrowded offices, and seminar rooms located partially below grade. Though the College’s original thinking had been to demolish Trotter Hall, replacing it with a considerably more capacious structure, our master plan revealed both its central place in the overall campus environment and its potential for renovation to meet state-of-the-art standards.

We began by reconfiguring the building’s circulation patterns, opening up the formerly cramped spaces and creating new opportunities for informal meeting and conversation. All the floors now open to a new central atrium and lounge areas, bringing abundant natural light into the interior. We took the opportunity as well to bring access to audio/visual and information technology resources to every space and to provide access to the campus-wide data network throughout the structure. At the same time, in conjunction with our redesign of the north campus, we lowered the grade in front of Trotter Hall, making it a full three-story building and turning the former basement seminar rooms into light-filled and highly desirable teaching and learning spaces. Today, the building houses the History, Political Science, and Classics Departments, whose faculty are envied for the quality and location of their offices.