University confirms Rotunda will close during Final Exercises 2015
Phase II expected to last two years, potentially affect graduation ceremonies in 2016
The Rotunda will be closed during Final Exercises 2015, University officials confirmed at a meeting Thursday in the Rotunda Lower West Oval Room.
“We discussed it at length to figure out if there was any way the Rotunda could be opened for the 2015 Final Exercises period, and there was no way,” Chief Facilities Officer Donald Sundgren said.
The confirmation follows earlier reports of a Monday meeting between student leaders and University administrators discussing the impact of the restorations upon Final Exercises for the Class of 2015 and potentially the Class of 2016.
“Every effort will be made to complete [the renovations] prior to Final Exercises 2016. It will depend on what we find while we’re in there,” Sundgren said. “Depending on what we find and what the weather will determine whether we’ll get it done before Final Exercises .”
The next phase of expansive structural renovations will begin the day after Final Exercises 2014, and will continue for two years, according to a University press release.
“The University is poised to begin Phase II of what will be a $50 million renovation project,” University spokesperson Anthony de Bruyn said. “It now has been four decades since a major Rotunda renovation has been completed.”
De Bruyn said the timing is ideal, as the University turns it attention to its bicentennial celebrations just as the renovations are expected to reach completion in 2016.
The second phase of renovations will include modernizing the building’s mechanical systems, replacing portico roofs, installing a new elevator for increased access, upgrading infrastructure for the classrooms and Board of Visitors meeting room, and the addition of an underground mechanical room, according to a University press release. New marble column capitals from Italy will replace the deteriorating ones that are currently wrapped in black netting.
The underground mechanical room will house modern heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, and electrical and fire alarm panels. Construction of the room will require a partial dismantling of the east colonnade to provide access for construction equipment. The colonnade will later be re-assembled.
“The support structure will be massive,” Sundgren said. “That’s going to be the structural steel that will raise the [column] capitals into place.”
Other modifications will be required to accommodate the construction efforts, including removal of the courtyard magnolia trees.
“Everything from the courtyards will be removed — that will include the magnolia trees,” Sundgren said. “That will happen in the next few weeks.”
The building will be closed to the public during this time. Individuals with offices in the Rotunda not involved in the construction project will be relocated to temporary spaces.
“Everybody who currently occupies the Rotunda will be out of there by May and will be moved to facilities elsewhere,” Sundgren said. The 53 undergraduate Lawn rooms are still expected to be occupied at current capacity as the renovations are ongoing.
Student Council President Eric McDaniel, a fourth-year College student, said in an email to the student body that the renovations will ensure the Rotunda’s structural health for the next 50 years.
“There is no question that this work will be an inconvenience to our community,” McDaniel said. “However, it is a minor sacrifice to allow for the best possible Academical Village as the University enters its third century.”
Third Year Council President Will Laverack, a College student, said the council is in the process of forming a committee to address the challenges presented by the renovation, including its effect on Final Exercises.
“The renovation will undoubtedly have an impact on Grounds, and it will be our responsibility to develop innovative ways to make major events centered on the Lawn such as Final Exercises just as special and memorable to all of us,” Laverack said.