A renewed effort to preserve the East Architecture or “Old” Architecture Building has begun with the renovation of its auditorium and original Dean’s Office. Designed by former architecture professor and director P.M. Heffernan, the 1952 Architecture Building is emblematic of assertive modernism, and is perhaps Heffernan’s most noteworthy modernist design on campus.
Thanks to the generosity of Dolores Reinsch, Lola C. Reinsch and J. Almont Pierce (Arch, 1958), the auditorium was renovated and restored to its former elegance. One of the most trafficked classrooms on campus, the auditorium also is the College’s “public” face as the venue for its lecture series and other large gatherings.
Many hours were spent researching photographs, changes, original specifications and manufacturers in the effort to evoke the original design. Local firm Surber Barber Choate & Hertlein, known for their preservation work, began the auditorium rehabilitation in May 2009. Firm principal Jim Choate is an alumnus. “I first crossed the threshold of the architecture auditorium as a teenager, in just about my first moment in the study of Architecture,” he recalled. “By the time I was hired to renovate the auditorium it had died a death of a thousand cuts and was universally disliked by students and faculty alike…With the spirit of the original 1952 design as a touchstone, the overlay of current technological requirements was incorporated in the recomposition of the auditorium.”
On Friday, January 29, at 5:30 p.m., a public celebration will mark the opening and dedication of the auditorium, re-named the Reinsch-Pierce Family Auditorium. The celebration will feature a performance from the School of Music and special guest Malcolm Gailey, former architecture professor and member of original 1952 Architecture Building design team.
The project donor, Dolores G. Reinsch, is a native of Brunswick, Georgia, and the grandmother recent alumnus Gerald Pierce (BS Arch 2008). Reinsch’s son-in-law, J. Almont “Al” Pierce, who earned degrees from Tech in 1958 and 1959, is founder and principal of Pierce Architecture.
Reinsch’s daughter, Lola C. Reinsch (Pierce), is a commercial real estate developer and CEO of The E. G. Reinsch Companies in Arlington, Virginia.
“My wife, my mother-in-law and I are true believers in the College of Architecture’s mission," said Al Pierce. "And we know just how important this renovation and expansion project is for the continued success of that mission.”
Upon Alan Balfour’s return as Dean, he made the crucial decision to move his office from the Cooper Carry designed West Architecture Building (1981) to the Heffernan East Architecture Building, arguing that the dean’s suite should be at the front of the College where Heffernan had intended. This suite, which includes the dean’s office, administrative office and conference room, was in better shape than the auditorium; however, it had undergone insensitive upgrades to accommodate changing needs and technologies.
Dean Balfour personally worked with the contractor to ensure the historic character of these spaces was maintained. He helped search the College for pieces of the original furniture and insisted upon technological solutions that preserved the earlier spirit and also met our modern needs.
“The restoration of these rooms [dean’s suite] as well as the renovated Reinsch-Pierce Family Auditorium mark the first stages of our plan to--where possible--return all elements of the Heffernan work to their original form and use,” said Balfour in an e-mail to the entire College. “I invite you to explore this space whenever you can. See how they have retained an exceptional formal elegance and remind us of the poetic subtlety of modernism.”
The next major renovation is the Hinman Research Building, which received state funding in 2008 for its conversion to studio and space for the College of Architecture. Another local firm Lord Aeck & Sargent with Office da of Boston won the bid for the rehabilitation of the Hinman Research Building, which begins in spring 2010.