“Soil is the hidden, secret friend, which is the root domain of lively darkness and silence.”
—Francis D. Hole (d. 2002), CALS professor of soil science
Francis D. Hole’s poetic description of soil rings true. But those who study soil also need friends who are neither “hidden” nor “secret”—and they also need to break the silence.
“Science is both a solitary and a social activity,” notes soil science professor and former department chair Bill Bland. “The social side of this is both formal, through meetings and publications, and informal—casual discussions in which ideas are gently improved and new understandings emerge serendipitously.”
The Soils and King Hall buildings, the home of soil science at CALS, are both cherished and historic, but they were designed nearly a century before architects understood how workspaces can foster such crucial interaction.
Plans are under way now to address that need by creating a light-infused space where soil science faculty, staff, graduate students and their collaborators can interact informally in a relaxed and pleasing environment.
The Jackson–Tanner Commons, as it is called—named after Marion Jackson and Champ Tanner, the first two soil science faculty members at CALS to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences—will be located in room 360 of the Soils Building. The room sits at the northeast corner of Soils, with views of the Lakeshore dorms and Lake Mendota to the north and the savannah and Elizabeth Waters dorm to the east, through five large windows. The room reveals wonderful architectural details of the Soils Building with its gabled ceiling and exposed steel column (see illustration of the planned renovated space).
Renovating the space will include removing two interior partitions, constructing a kitchenette area with running water and covering exposed electrical conduits. Furnishings, lighting, painting and carpet—and, possibly, the installation of air conditioning—will complete the job.
Faculty and staff are already envisioning how the presence of the Jackson–Tanner Commons will enhance their work.
“The informal setting of the Commons will create a space for conversations, creativity and community building,” says soil science professor and department chair Alfred Hartemink.