Metcalf Chemistry and Research Laboratory — which underwent a $42 million renovation over the past year and a half — will host classes for the first time today since its overhaul. Students who took classes in Metcalf prior to its transformation are in for a surprise.
"It was such a dump," said William Heindel, chair of the cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences department that calls Metcalf home.
Metcalf's 210-seat auditorium may be the most visible change that greets students and other visitors to the building.
A state-of-the-art projector system replaces the original blackboards bemoaned by students who struggled to read professors' writing from the auditorium's back rows. The room's notoriously uncomfortable wooden seats, noisy radiators and out-of-date periodic table are gone. The refurbished auditorium space is already in high demand, Heindel said.
The 74,187-square-foot building's other iconic room, dubbed the "dome room" for its circular glass ceiling, has also undergone extensive changes. "It was in really bad shape before," Heindel said of the third-floor room, which is now his favorite in the building. It is equipped with a kitchen and audio/video conference capabilities and connects to a balcony overlooking a small library, a space which previously functioned as a fire exit.
"I think one of the major problems in the previous building was that it was just completely dilapidated so the ceiling would be falling on you while you were working and the wall was crumbling around me in one of my labs," said Clara Kliman-Silver '13. "It's nice not to have that anymore."
Spaces created with aesthetics in mind are present throughout the L-shaped facility. A public art installation connecting the building to an outside courtyard reflects the department's theme of visual perception through glass panels that bend light according to time of day.
The exterior of the building remains mostly unchanged to keep its original 1923 appearance.
"I think stylistically it looks very nice," said Adam Bear '13.
Faculty office and research laboratory wings are connected by lounges and conference rooms, some outfitted with wall-sized whiteboards. Labs are clustered based on research areas within the CLPS department. But faculty offices are organized randomly to encourage collaboration among faculty across the department, which was created by the merger of cognitive and linguistic sciences and psychology.
Graduate students are given their own office space on the top floor, which previously served as an attic. Several showers have been added for the benefit of grad students and faculty. "They never have to leave," Heindel said. The showers are also intended to encourage commuting by bike. Administrators hope Metcalf, which includes many environmentally friendly features, will attain a silver or better Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.
The CLPS department moved into Metcalf in early October while work continued on the building. Though the renovation — designed by the architecture firm Leers Weinzapfel Associates — is essentially complete, technology staff were still working yesterday evening to prepare for the semester's start.
"They're still working out some kinks," Heindel said of the building's final touches. "We're getting ready for prime time."
— With additional reporting by Margaret Nickens
Check out http://blogdailyherald.com/2012/01/25/a-thousand-words-inside-metcalf/ for photos from The Herald's tour of Metcalf.