September 14, 2018

WPI opens $49M dorm and education building

Photo/Grant Welker
WPI President Laurie Leshin said the college's new building will add a new, third element — impact — to WPI's two long-term pillars, theory and practice.
Photo/Grant Welker
A centerpiece of the Foisie Innovation Studio and Messenger Hall is a 32-foot-by-12-foot video screen and a gathering area for students.
Photo/Grant Welker
The $49 million building includes 140 beds for students, in single and double dorm rooms.
Photo/Grant Welker
The 78,000 square-foot building includes work and study areas for students where they can borrow lab equipment.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute officially opened its $49 million dorm and education building Thursday, which includes both 140 beds and lab space equipped with the latest technology.

The Foisie Innovation Studio and Messenger Hall will help add a new, third element — impact — to WPI's two long-term pillars, theory and practice, WPI President Laurie Leshin said. Leshin also alluded to the school's major qualifying projects, in which students often go overseas for in-depth and on-hands learning.

"It's about taking that world-changing work to another level," Leshin said.

Leshin spoke at a ceremonial opening of the 78,000-square-foot building, which opened to students last month just off the college's main quad.

The building includes an open-use so-called maker space in which students can borrow lab equipment or make use of one of dozens of 3D printers. Each printer includes a camera through which students can keep tabs on their products in the making. Classrooms include whiteboards running the length of a wall and projector screens that allow a professor to show presentations on all four sides of the room.

The centerpiece of the main floor is a 32-foot-by-12-foot video screen that, at least for the grand opening, showed a revolving slideshow of countries worldwide where WPI students conduct their major qualifying projects. In front of the screen is a multilevel space where students can gather. Just around the corner is a Auntie Anne's Pretzels and a Planet Smoothie.

The Foisie Innovation Studio and Messenger Hall is named after Robert Foisie, a 1956 WPI graduate and largest donor, who died in June, and for Priscilla and George Messenger Jr., a 1951 graduate. Foise's philanthropy to the school included helping pay for the education of more than 600 students. In 2001, the Messengers created the George and Priscilla Messenger Endowed Scholarship Fund.

In all, 1,300 donors contributed to the project, including $18 million in an alumni funding drive.

The building replaces Alumni Gymnasium, whose decorative grotesques were preserved in a new wall along the adjacent Harrington Auditorium.


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