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
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
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
"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
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."