With less than a month to go before Seymour Hall reopens, anticipation is building about what to expect once the venerable wooden doors swing wide and the renovated interior presents itself to a second century of students. Over the past year, Seymour's $14 million renovation has ticked along according to an ambitious schedule that, in today's renovation terms, might be called a total gut job.
Stripped down to the studs when the project began last summer, Seymour's old soul remains in elements like the center staircase, originally constructed in 1915. Project leader and WRA Director of Facilities Jeff Jacot explained how donors and alumni like the creaks and grooves in the stairs. In some classrooms, ceilings have been raised so windows aren't impeded and the full picture of the lawn's wide sweep appears. New stairwells (there's also an elevator now) tip their hat to the old, featuring re-built versions of beautiful half-round windows that are part of the building's traditional style.
In the new category, students and faculty will find five new classrooms, for a total of 29, made possible by smart configurations of old spaces that have moved to other locations – most importantly the Admission Office, now in its own home at President's House. A reassignment of disciplines per floor also will find English sharing space with History on the third floor, Modern & Classical Languages on the second floor (where Mathematics used to sit) and Mathematics on the first floor now, taking the space historically occupied by English. Faculty will begin to acclimate to the new spaces when they move in mid-month, with students just days later when classes begin on August 20.
All classrooms exhibit Seymour's signature classic style pushed forward to the 21st century. This may be what is most notable about the Seymour renovation; everything that was wonderfully old is appropriately new again. The giant windows remain, made-over. The heavy wooden trim is still the signature style, but everything has been custom forged by the more than 100 partner companies who played a role in Seymour's renovation.
Energy efficiency underlies the project, quite literally, with geothermal heating and cooling (air conditioning for the first time ever in Seymour) the energy source, as with President's House. Above ground, additional efficiencies may be found in measures like occupancy lighting, which means lights go out when no one is in a classroom, a rare occasion at Reserve! While changing norms can be taken for granted, some might remark how the mailboxes once central in Seymour have disappeared into the digital age, with email now the more typical communication.
Collaborative learning spaces have come to campus as learning methods evolve, most notably in The Wang Innovation Center. Now, in Seymour, students will find several new seminar rooms where small groups can gather to work on projects or study. But collaborative learning spaces aren't the only connection to The Wang Center. The direct connect between Seymour and The Wang Center, via a short brick pathway, was always a deliberate part of the campus plan, creating a literal and figurative connection between traditional and innovative, as the school stakes its claim on the cutting-edge of a classical education.
Architectural firm MacLachlan, Cornelius & Filoni worked closely with Jacot, contractors the Ruhlin Company, and the Reserve team on both the "heavy duty" details and the intricate aesthetics. For example, Boston chairs are the traditional style and pale yellow paint is the predominant palate. Lighter stain on the hallway floors looks stunning. Everything combines for a building that still feels storied, but will soon write a whole new chapter.
Visit WRA.net/seymourhall for more information about the renovation.