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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University September 24, 2007 | Vol. 37 No. 4
Mason Hall Opens As Door to JHU

Mason Hall, seen here from the Decker Quadrangle, houses the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and also provides information for other university friends and visitors. It can be reached by elevator from the new 604-space underground garage.
Photo by Will Kirk/HIPS

Admissions and visitor Center is information Entry point

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

With just the finishing touches left to do, Homewood's new "front door" opens this week.

On Friday, Mason Hall rumbled to life as admissions staff moved into the new 28,000-square- foot admissions and visitor center, which will receive its first campus visitors on Wednesday.

The building, located in the southern portion of the Homewood campus, is the new home of the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, formerly located in Garland Hall, and provides prospective students and their families with information on Johns Hopkins' history, current programs and the Homewood undergraduate experience. University officials also view the facility as a highly visible first point of reception and information for other university friends and visitors.

The building sits at the south end of the new Decker Quadrangle, which is formed by Clark Hall to the west, Garland Hall to the north and the new Computational Science and Engineering building to the east. The quad, which will be dedicated at an invitation-only ceremony on Oct. 27, features an expansive lawn, beneath which is the new underground three-level, 604-space parking facility for visitors, students, staff and faculty. Two sites on the quad remain open for future development.

Mason Hall's name honors the building's chief donors, Raymond A. "Chip" Mason, trustee emeritus and former chairman of the university's board of trustees, and his wife, Rand.

Mason said that he and others felt the campus needed an entry point, and one that sets the right tone for such a distinguished institution.

Attention to detail: Seatbacks in the auditorium display facts about founder Johns Hopkins and the university. Some have been left blank for future additions.
Photo by Will Kirk/HIPS

"I think [Mason Hall] really adds to the campus, and this new quad is great for Hopkins," said Mason, who regularly swung by the area on Sundays after church to check on the construction progress. "It extends and adds to a campus that has already gone through an extensive beautification effort in recent years."

Shepley Bulfinch Richardson and Abbott, an architectural firm based in Boston, designed the building. In keeping with the architecture of most Homewood structures, Mason Hall features a red brick and white marble trim exterior and a roof topped by dormers and chimneys. It is flanked by a pair of colonnades that ultimately will connect to the future buildings in the southwest and southeast portions of the quad. The grounds feature beautifully landscaped gardens and a fountain.

Mason Hall's first floor includes an entry hall, living room, library, 125-seat auditorium and boardroom for the Alumni Association. The second and third floors house meeting rooms, interview rooms and office space for the Admissions Office.

The first-floor library contains books about Johns Hopkins and ones written by faculty. The entry hall features a large four-panel display that will scroll images of the university, past and present, and current information such as weather, event details and campus tour departure times. The walls of the first floor and the stairway to the second floor will be decorated with images from throughout Johns Hopkins' history. The space will also be decorated with university artifacts, both old and new.

Paula Burger, dean of undergraduate education, said that Mason Hall provides not only a front door to the Homewood campus but a window on the university.

"We wanted to build a place that conveys a sense of tradition and appreciation for things past but also shows off the cutting-edge activities that engage faculty and students now," Burger said. "It's not a museum, certainly, but this space shows how Johns Hopkins has been involved in the discovery and creation of new knowledge throughout its history and today."

Burger said that the building will serve as an introduction to everything Johns Hopkins.

"People will know how to gain entrance to our community," she said. "Myself, I love the fact that it feels partly like a house, not just on office building. It has pictures hanging on the wall, a library, comfortable seating — all elements that convey that this is a warm and welcoming place. Visitors can come in and, while they wait, grab a book from the library, sit down on a couch and learn something about us."

In the building's north entry hall will be two touch-screen information kiosks where visitors can punch up interactive maps of the Homewood campus, Baltimore/Washington region and even a world map that highlights Johns Hopkins locations. The hall, which can be accessed from both the quad and the garage elevator, will remain open evenings and weekends so that people who visit the campus after business hours will have a place to learn something about the university and events.

"The visitors center will also help orient people who are looking at other Johns Hopkins schools and institutions," Burger said. "We wanted it to reflect the entire university experience."

John Latting, director of undergraduate admissions, describes Mason Hall as a wonderful and exciting facility that not only offers his office much-needed extra space but also gives his staff a leg up in shaping the best possible classes.

"The recruiting process is complex and involves a lot of steps, but the college visit and first impressions are perhaps the most important. This building represents an enormous step forward in strengthening that," Latting said. "I think this space will make a lot of difference in who chooses to apply here and who chooses to enroll. We didn't hold back in its design and our aspirations for its use. I feel we got exactly what we wanted and more."


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