First Look: Concept Plan For ‘Hobson College’ At Princeton University

Rendering of proposed new ‘Hobson College’ as viewed from Goheen Walk looking north.

On Thursday, Feb 3, 2022, the Princeton Planning Board will consider a concept plan presented by Princeton University, outlining their design for a new undergraduate residential college. The new college will be called ‘Hobson College’, after donor Mellody Hobson, and will be the first college at Princeton University named for a Black woman.

Hobson College will replace the existing ‘First College‘, on the Princeton University campus at Goheen Walk near Elm Drive (map). First College was originally known as ‘Wilson College’, after former Princeton U. and US President Woodrow Wilson, but was renamed in 2020 as part of the University’s ongoing effort of de-Wilsonization. It was the first residential college in Princeton University at the time of its construction in 1962, and therefore has a historic role in the evolution of the Princeton undergraduate experience. Despite attempts to update the buildings, they are often cited as some of the worst on campus, and the University will now demolish them and re-use the site for Hobson College.

View of the existing ‘First College’ as it appears today. Most of the existing buildings will be demolished.

The University’s concept plan indicates that the new Hobson College will be a single large building (270,000 sq ft) with multiple wings, wrapped around a central quadrangle, and surrounded by improved landscaping. Part of the existing Wu Hall, which serves as a dining hall for the adjacent Butler College, will be retained and integrated into the design. Five hundred undergraduates would reside in the new college, along with ten graduate students and one staff member. In the upper floors, the building would contain student bedrooms, lounges, study spaces and six small kitchens. The lower floors will provide a range of services, including a ‘multipurpose room’, two seminar rooms, a common Room, a library. and a new kitchen and servery. A ‘performance space’ is also marked on the wing of the building closes to Elm Drive.

Proposed site layout of new ‘Hobson College’ at Princeton University.

New paths around the proposed Hobson College would greatly improve the connectivity of the campus walkway system. No new roads or parking are proposed, because the new college is essentially a replacement of the existing First College, and the redevelopment is not expected to impact traffic on campus. New trees and plantings will be added around the site, and the maximum number of existing mature trees will be preserved.

‘Hobson Quad’, part of the proposed design

Architectural drawings for the new college are provided by New York-based PAU and by Hanbury. The massing of the buildings will be varied, reaching to six levels and an average height of 60-ft. The perceived scale of the structure will be reduced by ‘canting’ the upper levels. The façade will predominantly be comprised of brick of several different textures and variations, which will relate to the surrounding historic buildings on campus.

Another view of the proposed new ‘Hobson College’ of Princeton University

The Planning Board will not be giving final approval for the college based on the concept plan presented this week. A full planning application would be required at some point in the future.

Links to relevant documents at Princeton Planning Board website:

Edited 2.3.2022: An earlier version of this article stated that the new Hobson College structure would rise to a “a maximum of 200-ft”. This is incorrect. The buildings will be up to 60-ft.

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