It is safe to say that almost all students have either had a class in Rita Liddy Hollings Science Center or attended a presentation in Physicians Auditorium. These two College of Charleston landmarks will receive dramatic updates in the coming semesters, rendering them unrecognizable.
Rita Liddy Hollings is home to physics, astronomy, biology and geology classes. The school’s 16 inch telescope is housed in the observation dome, with piers on the roof for other eight inch telescopes. Biology and psychology classes also use the facilities to conduct neurobiology research.
The last major renovation was in the mid 1980s. For a technology center, thirty years means a huge gap in necessary technologies. The observatory’s current location does not protect against street vibrations, which inhibit nighttime observations with sensitive telescopes.
Physicians Auditorium as it is today will be completely torn down. Plans include adding additional floors above the auditorium, which it cannot now accommodate. The function of adding these new levels is two-fold: additional classrooms, labs and offices, but also the height of the roof would now be approximately four stories tall, making it ideal for stargazing. Its location set away from Coming Street will also be beneficial, providing protection from street vibrations and lights from Addlestone Library.
Physicians is being completely reconstructed to add additional supports to the observatory, which will be moved to the new top of Physicians. A more stable base requires complete reconstruction, but will make big differences in telescope sight ability.
Permanent piers for the school’s eight inch telescopes will also be installed on the roof. Previously, astronomy labs set up and removed telescopes each night. A roll off top will be installed, similar to an overhead garage door, that will allow all telescopes to remain in place, saving lab time.
In addition to update biological labs and equipment, a vivariam, similar to a greenhouse, will also be added on the roof, a completely novel addition to the College. It will house plants and animals for research projects.
In order for these changes to be made, Physicians Auditorium and Rita Liddy Hollings will both have to be closed for a scheduled eighteen months, beginning at the end of spring semester, 2014.
The school has contracted with a local business center near the Aquarium to set up classrooms during the renovations. Transportation will be provided for students who need it.
Astronomy and physics labs will be held in one of two possible locations: the roof of the Lightsey Center or the top of St. Phillip’s parking garage. Parking is minimal at night and lanes could be blocked off to allow for telescopes and students.
Terry Richardson, long time physics professor of the College, said about the renovations, “We’re [currently] cramped with too little space. Our research equipment is scattered. [It’ll be] good to get in a spot where [everything’s settled].”