Old Chapel, Design Building Honored by Planners Group

Old Chapel
Old Chapel
John W. Olver Design Building
John W. Olver Design Building

Two much-celebrated campus buildings were honored again July 11, receiving design excellence awards from the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP).

The John W. Olver Design Building, which opened in 2017, earned a SCUP Merit Award for Excellence in Landscape Architecture – General Design.

Old Chapel, at the center of campus since 1885, earned a SCUP/AIA-CAE Merit Award for Excellence in Architecture for Rehabilitation, Restoration or Preservation.

Thomas P. Huf, senior program manager in the Division of Campus Planning, will moderate the presentation of these awards at the SCUP national conference in Nashville next week.

SCUP reviewers note that the Design Building is the new home for the architecture department, landscape architecture and regional planning (LARP), and the building and construction technology program. They write, “Bringing these three disciplines together under one roof was a historic move that provides unprecedented opportunities for integrated learning about the built environment.”

The reviewers also note that the site had been a parking lot that contributed to siltation of the Campus Pond. “The need to restore a functioning ecosystem and the expression of horticultural experimentation were paramount to the design,” they wrote.

Praising the building’s place in the greater campus, the reviewers say, “With exposed timber frame construction in the architecture, regionally inspired gardens, site-harvested storm water, and an experimental green roof, the project has set a new ecological and creative standard for campus design at UMass.”

In November, the Design Building was honored with an Award of Merit in the Engineering News-Record (ENR) list of New England’s 2017 Best Projects in the Higher Education / Research category. The Wall Street Journal named it one of the best new buildings of 2017.

In February, it was named the U.S. Building of the Year in a national online poll by American-Architects, and it was named the Jury’s Choice for Wood Innovation in the WoodWorks 2018 Wood Design Awards, which celebrate excellence in wood building design across the U.S.

Old Chapel, the iconic heart of campus, reopened last year after a two-year renovation that followed a 20-year closure.

SCUP reviewers noted that in beginning the renovation the university’s challenge was “to create a multipurpose student center for contemporary teaching, learning, performance, and event space while preserving the best aspects of the existing building fabric.”

“The design team went to great lengths to restore the building back to its original condition … A paint analysis was done in the Great Hall to uncover the original paint colors. The new millwork paneling was based on the color palette of the original wood. … Existing millwork, roof trusses, and other woodwork elements were carefully cleaned and restored,” the reviewers wrote.

Old Chapel was recently listed among the Top 30 Most Beautiful College Cathedrals and Chapels in the U.S. as ranked by Best College Reviews. In October, it was honored with a commendation from the Victorian Society in America for the university’s “comprehensive exterior restoration and adaptive use of the interior,” and in November it was honored with a Massachusetts Historical Commission 2017 Historic Preservation Award.

Named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2015, Old Chapel is certified LEED Gold for environmental performance.