Signature humanities building at Homewood undergoing
A $73 million renovation of The Johns Hopkins University's historic Gilman Hall will begin this summer, a three-year project that will restore the 92-year-old academic icon to its original status as a national model for teaching and scholarship in the humanities.
Starting in June, Gilman, the main building on the university's Homewood campus, will undergo what planners have called a "transformative renewal." The goal, said university president William R. Brody, is only in part to bring classrooms, faculty offices and other spaces up to modern standards. The broader aim, he said, is to create an environment that promotes and nurtures the interdisciplinary collaboration that is the hallmark of contemporary humanities scholarship.
"The seminar system that is the bedrock of humanities study today was invented at Johns Hopkins," Brody said. "Gilman Hall was designed specifically to foster that system, and it succeeded brilliantly. Now, a renewed, reinvented Gilman Hall will support the study of the humanities in the century to come."
The building's reconfigured interior will allow the reassembly in Gilman of all 10 humanities departments in the university's Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, departments focused on such fundamental aspects of human life as language, literature, history, philosophy, social interaction, culture and civilization.
Ample new common space — most dramatically, the conversion of an open interior light well into a large, naturally lit, glass-enclosed three-story atrium — will encourage interaction across departmental lines, sparking the cross-disciplinary collaborations that are critical to modern scholarship.
Gilman Hall, a four-story Georgian-style building named for the university's first president, Daniel Coit Gilman, was dedicated in 1915 and last superficially renovated in 1985-86. It was built on a novel concept: Faculty offices, seminar rooms and open library stacks were grouped by department, giving scholars from each discipline easy access to all the resources relevant to their work.
"For nearly a century, the best humanities professors have come to Johns Hopkins explicitly to participate in the unique seminar system that Gilman Hall has housed and nourished," said Adam Falk, the James B. Knapp Dean of the Krieger School. "Johns Hopkins would not be the world-class university it has become without the accomplishments of those who have passed through Gilman."
In recent years, however, as departments outgrew their space, as books were moved out of the building's stacks to a central library and — most importantly — as academic work became more collaborative and cross-disciplinary, Gilman evolved into dysfunction. Old library stacks and eaves were ill-suited for conversion to offices. A maze of a floor plan and a warren of eight stairwells — only half leading all the way from Gilman's lowest level to the top floor — inserted dead ends randomly into one's travel about the building. Mechanical systems were inadequate to new demands.
The makeover will maintain Gilman's historic character; other than the atrium, the only change apparent in the exterior will be the disappearance of window air conditioners and the installation of energy-efficient new windows. Faculty offices that form the perimeter of the main floors will be updated, but will remain largely the same in character as they are now.
Interior space, however, will be radically changed. A new basement will be dug for mechanical systems. Modern heating, air conditioning, electrical, lighting, life safety and information technology systems will be installed throughout. New ground-to-fourth floor stairwells will be created, and new back corridors will eliminate the dead ends. Deficiencies in accessibility for the disabled also will be eliminated.
With the removal of a bookstore, bank and credit union from the ground floor, the space available for academic departments will grow from about 43,000 to about 55,000 gross square feet. Pooled classroom and seminar space will grow from about 8,000 feet to nearly 11,000. A dedicated film screening room will seat 140.
The most visible single change will be the atrium, Falk said. "This will be the most dramatic and appealing space on the entire Homewood campus and immediately become a focus for student and faculty life," he said. "Almost by itself, it will restore Gilman Hall to its rightful place, both symbolic and actual, as the very heart of the university."
Built within the atrium will be a new home for thousands of ancient objects in the university's Archaeological Collection. Passersby will be able to watch through large first-floor windows as students work with artifacts from Greco-Roman and Near Eastern civilizations. Visitors also will be able to peer down into the collection from its roof, which also will serve as a second-floor bridge connecting Memorial Hall inside Gilman's front entrance to the Hutzler Undergraduate Library at the rear of the building. The bridge also will feature informal social space for students and a coffee bar.
"Gilman itself is a wonderful building to begin with," said lead architect Frances Halsband of R.M. Kliment & Frances Halsband Architects of New York City. "The creation of a gathering space for the university community at the heart of the building will turn out to be a terrific thing. Having such a space as an integral part of the university's humanities building sends a very strong message about the importance of the humanities to the university."
The renovation will take place in two phases. After Memorial Day, a few occupants of fourth floor offices will move out, allowing for the dismantling this summer of the old stacks in the core of the building. The building will remain occupied through academic year 2007-2008, but then will close for two years. Reopening is scheduled for late summer of 2010.
The $73 million project, plus costs for temporary space needed during the renovation, is being funded by a combination of university, Maryland state and philanthropic support. The goal for private fund raising, Falk said, is $35 million, about half of which has been committed.
Construction manager for the project is the worldwide company Bovis Lend Lease.
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