Surely you’ve noticed the walls of windows being installed on our new additions these past few weeks. It’s quite a new look for our campus but is designed to complement the existing structures as well as enhance the open feel of the new areas. The glass features were designed by an Ohio-based architecture firm called The Collaborative, so we recently sat down for a question-and-answer session with our site’s project manager from The Collaborative, Tony Malik.
Q: What can you tell us about all of the large windows that are being installed?
A: The whole intent of the new additions is to create a more contemporary look, and we plan to achieve that in part with what’s called curtain-wall or storefront windows. The addition to Morris Hall will pretty much be all glass while the Dining Hall is going to have very large expansive glass looking east, and the new south ends of Van Syckel and Dennett Halls will both have big areas of glass that look out to the front of campus. Morris Hall is about 11-foot-4 from floor to floor so the glass is 22 to 24 feet tall from bottom to top, but that includes a solid panel in the middle. That panel and the other new exterior trimmings will be painted gray to blend in with the windows more than the white ones on the existing buildings.
Q: What is the desired effect of all that glass?
A: More light, definitely. Part of it is that it makes you feel like you’re outside. That’s an important piece of the loft, contemporary look we’re trying to achieve, especially in the new art classrooms and studios. Those areas will feature an industrial look with storefront windows going floor to roof and exposed ceilings on the inside, which means you’re going to see a lot of ductwork, conduits, pipes… everything’s going to be exposed and painted one color. In general, there will be a lot of transparency to the building.
Also, there will be a lot more versatility of space, particularly in the Dining Hall but it applies to a lot of other zones as well. We’ve really made an effort that if you’re going to build a new space, make it feel like a new space. I’m really looking forward to what happens in the art rooms and the visual arts gallery, which is something that’s been a surprise on this project. We didn’t know what the structure was like in there. When they demolished all the interior walls in Morris Hall, we found this great structure that we want to leave exposed, so we’ve been scrambling to make those changes and the results should be very interesting.
Experience the Morris Hall interior in 3D!
(This can be viewed on a computer, but for a neat 360 experience, try viewing this on your phone or tablet. All you need is the free YouTube app installed, which can be found here.)
Q: Is everything on schedule so far?
A: The buildings are going up relatively quickly, but there was a lot of work that happened before that to make it happen as far as moving some utilities, getting the foundation work in, dewatering underground stuff… there’s a lot that happens underground. It probably took just as long to do the underground work as it did for them to put the walls up. When they can get the shell of the building enclosed so weather is no longer a factor, they can get a lot more done on the inside of the building, so all of the electrical and mechanical stuff is happening now. That’s why they wanted to get the roof on as quickly as possible. Weather-wise, we’ve had a great year for construction.
Q: What have been the biggest challenges to this project?
A: There’s a lot of uniqueness to this project. Instead of one big addition or one big defined renovation, it’s a larger quantity of interventions. We’ve got six different zones that we’ve been working in, plus a few other smaller areas, and we’re trying to build a cohesive whole out of all of those at the same time as making them all unique themselves. It’s quite a challenge to do that. In terms of complexity, we’re basically managing six projects. So whenever somebody else starts working on the project, it takes them a little bit of time to figure out where everything is if they have not already been on campus.
Q: Has it been especially tough working in a school environment with children around?
A: One thing I always worry about on a site of this size – on a project this size and with as much complexity that’s going on – is outside interference from those in close proximity to the work zones. But I’ve been very pleasantly surprised because when I’ve asked Continental (Building Systems, the general contractor) how many issues they’ve had with students wandering onto job sites or tampering with tools and equipment, they’ve had very, very few issues. The students and teachers have been absolutely great.
As projects come closer to completion over the next few months, expect to see more details shared here after Spring Break about new and renovated areas including the Dining Hall, College Counseling Office, Middle School Library and much more!