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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 9, 2007 | Vol. 36 No. 29
Light Shines On Gilman

At the heart of the historic building will be a glass-topped atrium where the Homewood community can gather. The bell tower is visible over Memorial Hall.
Illustration by R.M. Kliment & Frances Halsband Architects

Renovation will bring home for the humanities into the 21st century

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

An iconic Homewood building is on tap to get its gleam back — and shine brighter than ever before.

On April 3, the board of trustees' Building and Grounds Committee approved the schematic designs and early work packages for the renovation of Gilman Hall. The long-anticipated project, which has now entered the design development phase, will begin this summer.

The committee's vote essentially gives the green light to a $73 million three-year renovation effort to restore the 92-year-old building. The project, designed by New York-based R.M. Kliment and Frances Halsband Architects, seeks to restore the historic building to its former grandeur, bring it squarely into the 21st century and once again make it a national model for teaching and scholarship in the humanities.

Starting in June, Gilman 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 archaeological collection is showcased on the first floor; above is the courtyard with glass panels.
Illustration by R.M. Kliment & Frances Halsband Architects

"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 exterior of the building will remain largely untouched, but the renovation will give Gilman an extensively reconfigured interior that will allow for better traffic flow and the reassembly of all 10 humanities departments in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences; the History of Science and Technology Department, currently housed at 3505 N. Charles St., will be relocated to Gilman, as will the History of Art Department, which is now in Mergenthaler Hall.

The building's most visible and dramatic new feature will be a three-story glass-topped central atrium where there is currently an open, unused exterior light well. The new space, to be bathed in natural light, is intended to become a gathering place for the entire Homewood campus community and will feature seating and a coffee bar.

"Gilman itself is a wonderful building to begin with," said lead architect Frances Halsband. "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 second-floor courtyard will serve as a bridge between the Hutzler Reading Room and Memorial Hall, which will be largely untouched, except for prominent new openings into the atrium. It will sit atop a new first-floor space for the exhibition and study of the university's archaeological collection, which will be showcased behind glass walls and will also be visible from above through glass panels.

The renovation will also fix the current mazelike floor plan that includes several dead ends and a warren of eight stairwells, which will be reconfigured to serve the building better.

Adam Falk, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, said that this exciting renovation project seeks to restore, enhance and revitalize Homewood's "most important building."

"Gilman Hall is the architectural and intellectual heart of the Krieger School," Falk said. "It is a building that will once again be worthy of the terrific work that is done within it."

Opened in 1915, Gilman Hall was the first major academic building constructed after the university moved from downtown to the Homewood campus. With five floors, it contains roughly 135,000 square feet of interior space and features a signature bell tower. The building's architects drew their inspiration from Homewood House and thus began the tradition, which continues today, of classically influenced academic buildings on campus.

Named for the university's first president, Daniel Coit Gilman, Gilman Hall for many years was the campus's central academic building, containing classrooms, seminar rooms, offices and libraries for all the humanities and social sciences departments.

The makeover will maintain Gilman's historic character. Othera than the atrium, the only change apparent in the exterior will be the disappearance of window air conditioners. The building's architects seek to secure LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for Gilman, which would become the first major "green" building on campus. Leaky old windows will be replaced by energy-efficient new ones.

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.

A basement will be dug to house new mechanical systems to maximize space available for program functions elsewhere in the building, and modern heating, air conditioning, electrical, lighting, 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 Barnes & Noble bookstore and M&T Bank branch already relocated to new homes in Charles Village and Johns Hopkins Federal Credit Union set to move from the ground floor to Charles Commons in July, the space available for academic departments will grow from about 49,000 to about 55,000 gross square feet. Pooled classroom and seminar space will grow to nearly 11,000 square feet.

The building will also now feature a dedicated 140-person-capacity film screening room, and state-of-the-art seminar rooms and classrooms, including the resurrection of the original seminar rooms and the addition of glass-walled ones in the reconfigured library stacks space.

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 majority of those books are slated to be moved to the recently completed Library Service Center located on the APL campus. The building will remain occupied through academic year 2007-2008 but then will close for two years, during which classrooms and offices will be relocated. Reopening is scheduled for late summer 2010.

The project, including 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 support of the project, 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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