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Extreme Makeover for Savery Hall

Story by
Nancy Joseph
September 2009Perspectives Newsletter
Savery Hall's exterior looks brighter but basically unchanged. The surprises are inside the building.

Savery Hall's exterior looks brighter but basically unchanged. The surprises are inside the building. Media credit: Dustin Schroeder

An economist, a philosopher, and a sociologist walk into a room….

No, it’s not a joke. It’s what you’ll find at the Savery Hall Open House on October 16, when the Departments of Economics, Philosophy, and Sociology join together to celebrate their return to Savery Hall. The three departments—and the Center for Social Science Computation and Research—were housed in temporary quarters for two years while the building underwent an extensive renovation.

How extensive? “The whole building was gutted,” says Kate Goldyn, outreach coordinator for the Department of Philosophy. “They took it down to a shell and completely recreated the inside.” 

The original building dates back to 1917, with the southern wing completed in 1920. Savery’s last renovation was about 50 years ago, which explains why the building was part of the University’s Restore the Core project, aimed at bringing older buildings up to current building codes, making them accessible to people with disabilities, and retrofitting them to withstand earthquakes. 

A new "balcony" was added to the mezzanine in Savery to provide access to the new elevators.

A new "balcony" was added to the mezzanine in Savery to provide access to the new elevators. Media credit: Dustin Schroeder

At the open house, the architects for the renovation, SRG Partnership, will speak about the project. There’s sure to be plenty to discuss, since the building was significantly reconfigured to better suit the departments’ needs. Some examples: Classrooms are no longer intermixed with offices to minimize the disruption caused by foot traffic between classes. Exterior offices have frosted glass along their inner wall to help lighten Savery’s formerly dark hallways. The mezzanine level, previously accessible only by a narrow stairway, has been expanded and now shares elevator access. A hybrid heating and cooling system has been added to heat the building more efficiently. 

For its environmentally conscious design, Savery—designed as a LEED Silver-rated building—is on track for Gold certification. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the U.S. Green Building Council's rating program. Of course some energy-saving features may take some getting used to. “All the lights are motion sensored,” says Goldyn. “If I sit at my desk too long without moving, they’ll turn off. I’ve had to flail my arms to get them to turn back on,” she admits, laughing. “It’s sort of like a seventh-inning stretch.” 

A decorative wooden wall from the former philosophy library remains in place in a second floor office of Savery.

A decorative wooden wall from the former philosophy library remains in place in a second floor office of Savery. Media credit: Mary Levin

Goldyn and Zoe Williams, outreach coordinator for the Department of Economics, are organizing the October 16 Open House (Dana Pietromonaco, former outreach coordinator for the Department of Sociology, has been involved as well), and encourage the community to explore their digs. In addition to the architects’ talk, there will be building tours, a panel discussion with faculty from Sociology, Economics, and Philosophy, and opportunities to chat with more faculty from all three departments. There will even be door prizes—everything from Department of Economics seat cushions with the words “Get Dismal,” to finger puppets depicting famous philosophers.

“People who remember the building will be surprised,” says Williams. “They’ll see the outside, which looks the same, and then be wowed by how much the inside has changed. It will be fun to show it off.”