Completing the Circle: College Announces Renovation Plans for Noyes House

The Miscellany News.

The College has unveiled its plans for the grand-scale renovation of the Emma Hartman Noyes House, ambitiously set to be completed by the end of the 2022 summer break. Vassar has conceded that the dorm, built in 1958, is much in need of an upgrade.

Noyes is widely beloved by fans of conversation pits, tiled bathroom floors that have been painted over for no discernible reason and middle-of-the-night fire-alarm-induced jaunts in its eponymous Circle. The dorm is a sight to behold: Not only can appreciators of architecture rejoice in its splendid curvature, but the building also boasts vivid views of each interior room from the outside.

The plan, entitled “Noyes 360,” reveals the renovated and enlarged building’s soon-to-be circular shape while recalling the family-friendly surveillance app Life 360. Whereas the current structure comprises only one quarter of a circle, the refurbished building will be a completed ring—an O, a donut, a bagel, whichever you please (who am I to say what food-based metaphor you choose to conceptualize toric objects?). Noyes 360 will have the same large windows, impractically placed light fixtures and sound-throwing flexure as we all know, times four. The rounded structure will also feature an “observation deck” at the circle’s center, manned by a rotating brigade of overworked administrative assistants who are required to, as their contract stipulates, “maintain continuous and meticulous records of Noyes students’ whereabouts and daily activities in an effort to better understand Vassar’s most misunderstood house.” 

Art history aficionados will recall Noyes architect Eero Saarinen’s foiled plan for Noyes II, an identical quarter-circle building meant to accompany the first of its kind in a jubilant semicircle. Noyes 360 attempts to honor this vision in an era- and genre-defying display of architectural imagination, bridging Saarinen’s neo-futurist design with the eighteenth-century style of Jeremy Bentham. The Finnish architect is known for his iconic national landmarks, and this quintessentially American structure cements Vassar’s contributions to that long list. 

Asked for commentary on Noyes 360, a spokesperson for the Office of Residential Life expressed that “panopticon” was too harsh of a term to describe the proposed design. “We want the residential experience to be about more than where you sleep,” they remarked. “It’s really about defining who you are as a person and getting to know other people.” The Miscellany News applauds the college’s decision to look out for its students in this way. 

Students, in turn, see Noyes as home. “We have such a close community here. People really listen to everything you say…and you never know who’ll be waiting for you at the end of the hallway,” remarks Julia Maisel-Berick ’24. Many are feverishly anticipating seeing and living in the renovated complex when they return in the fall. “Noyes is one of a kind,” says James Mannix ’24. “There’s no way to escape it. No, I’m serious, I’m really stuck in here, Susanna, and I’m really getting scared but I can’t leave can you help me g—”


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