The independent news organization of Duke University

An exciting time at Duke


If you returned to Duke in the new year hoping that the new year means a finally-finished Duke, you have cause for both rejoicing and dismay. Coming back every semester always provides an exciting opportunity to survey campus and see what’s changed since leaving just a few weeks before. It also provides a chance to see where the familiar blue construction fences have next appeared.

Walking about campus this semester is a particularly welcome treat as, after almost constant construction since 2013 (when the Bryan Center was renovated and the Penn Pavilion built), the Campus Center precinct of campus is essentially complete with the opening of the Student Health and Wellness Building. The fences along Towerview and the construction trailer that has loomed just outside Kilgo Quad for so long are gone. After the addition of the final touches to the building in the coming weeks, the “Heart of Duke” will stretch from the new facilities in the Health and Wellness Center to the multipurpose Penn Pavilion to the updated performance space of Page Auditorium to the social hubs that are the West Union and the Bryan Center to the outdoor common spaces of the Crown Commons and the patio space behind Flowers. Every single one of these spaces has been either newly built, or has been gutted and renovated within the last five years which is a tremendous achievement. The opportunities these spaces create for a central social hub on campus are unparalleled in Duke’s history. The spaces are already planning to be used in conjunction with one another as a true Campus Center in the upcoming “Campus Center Showcase” with events as unexpected as laser tag in the Penn Pavilion coinciding with programming in all other facilities of the Campus Center. It’s a pleasant change just to be able to walk through the majority of campus these days without a major construction project.

That is likely to change before long, though, as the priorities of the university shift from re-envisioning the social component of the student experience to the residential component. One only needs to turn to East Campus to see the large new dormitory under construction that will complete the “Backyard Quad” and enable East Residence Hall, Jarvis, and Epworth dorms to be decommissioned. The more drastic changes on the horizon involve decommissioning all of Central Campus dorms within the next decade and replacing them with a variety of new housing facilities, first and foremost being the new complex of dorms currently known as “The Hollows” planned to be built on the Green Zone parking lots on West. These dorms will cause a profound shift in the residential experience as hundreds more students move onto West Campus, profoundly altering West’s dynamic forever.

The newly acquired 300 Swift apartments also provide housing flexibility as Central Campus is decommissioned. Although West Campus is planned to gain sparkling new dorms in the near future, the current dorms will not fade further into the background. Craven and Crowell are finally going to receive the long-awaited renovations to bring them into the 21st century, including fully renovated bathrooms, common rooms, and kitchens, as well as the addition of air conditioning. The East Campus dorms will continue being renovated in sequence, with the end result of a totally transformed residential experience for future students.

In the same vein of improving the student experience, the new Arts Building rapidly coming together at the corner of Campus Dr. and Anderson St. will provide new state-of-the-art facilities for various artistic disciplines. It includes dance studios, rehearsal spaces, a new broadcasting facility for WXDU, a 250-seat theater, flexible classrooms, painting and ceramics studios, and more. Its location right across the street from the Nasher, just down the road from the Arts Annex will make this area of campus into a central hub for the arts, and enhance Duke’s currently lacking efforts in the academic pursuit of the arts.

After a student’s experience at Duke ends, the Duke experience still continues. The Alumni Association is planning on a tremendous expansion of their facilities to improve the Forever Duke experience. Be on the lookout for a major construction project to begin behind the Forlines House on Chapel Dr. and the Graduate School on Campus Dr. as a brand new alumni center takes shape. The new facility takes architectural cues from around campus and melds them into a unique and memorable final product that we can take full advantage of post-graduation.

The medical and professional schools continue with construction of new facilities as well. The JB Duke Hotel serves as an example. It just opened at the Fuqua School of Business but also serves the wider Durham and Duke communities. More information for all of these projects is available online at the Facilities Department’s webpage along with resources like the university’s master plan.

DSG’s Facilities, Environment and Arts committee is involved in all of these processes, helping to provide a student input into the future of the university. We represent the student voice on committees reviewing building plans, on committees evaluating the sustainability of campus, and work to increase the accessibility of the arts to average students on campus, while working on projects related to all three areas at the same time. Some examples of the work for which we’ve advocated and have achieved this year are a pilot compost program for paper towel waste in a dormitory, creating the hammock cluster on West Campus, working to re-envision the space where ABP was previously located, and hosting an open house with the architects for all the residential projects occurring on campus to increase awareness of the plans for campus and create an opportunity for students to provide feedback. 

It’s an exciting time to be at Duke, with its facilities currently better than ever, and it’s exciting to think of how different it will look returning as alumni after witnessing just the changes of the last four years.