Boston – Finegold Alexander Architects, Inc. (FAA) led a large design team, that included Fuss & O’Neill, Inc. and Fuss & O’Neill EnviroScience, LLC, who was recently awarded the Renovation/Restoration Best Project of the Year award from Engineering News Record (ENR) New England, for the Old Chapel at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst campus. The Old Chapel is one of the original buildings on campus and is an iconic landmark.
This three-year, $21-million project restored to life the 132-year-old granite and sandstone building that had sat vacant for nearly two decades. The Old Chapel last functioned as a rehearsal space for the UMass Minuteman Marching Band before access was restricted in 1996 due to noncompliance with building safety codes, leaving the beautiful, beloved campus icon shuttered.
FAA restored the Old Chapel back to its original splendor with an inspiring design that reestablished this building as the heart of the campus. The original, slate roof was replaced, and the stained glass windows were refurbished to their original condition as a key focal point. A modern, glass entry pavilion was tastefully integrated with the exterior aesthetic, which characterizes the Old Chapel as a Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style.
The interior revitalization transformed the Old Chapel into a beautiful, versatile, and multi-functioning campus building. The first floor provides a flexible layout for student meetings, a gallery with an interactive display wall, and an event space. The Great Hall, located on the second floor, is a premier gathering space for performances, lectures, receptions, and weddings (booking is now available!). This extraordinary project has provided an accessible opportunity for generations of people to experience UMass innovation, pride, and history firsthand.
The Old Chapel officially re-opened to the public in March 2017, and the glowing reactions from the ribbon cutting ceremony have continued to the enthusiastic students, faculty, and visitors that now enjoy this vital campus space. FAA successfully implemented state-of-the-art accessibility, security, technology, and sustainability measures into a project showcasing relevant architectural details that are perfectly suited to a historical and vibrant venue.
FAA provided the hazardous building material testing, design, construction administration, air sampling and abatement project monitoring services to facilitate the renovation project while Fuss and O’Neill, Inc. provided environmental testing. These services were necessary to ensure not only worker protection during historical preservation and renovation activities but for the protection of public health as well.
Fuss & O’Neill employee and UMass alumnus, Regina Scott (’17 B.S. Public Health) is one student who has enjoyed the new and improved Old Chapel. “For most of the years I spent on the UMass campus, the Old Chapel was thought of as the ornamental building that served no real purpose for years. It was pasted all over UMass brochures to showcase the beauty and history of our campus, but was the one building that was inaccessible to the campus community,” said Ms. Scott.
“Halfway through my last semester, the Old Chapel was reopened to the public. One day I wandered in [to the Old Chapel] in hopes of finding a quiet refuge for study. I was taken aback because I was not expecting such a modern, calming, and sophisticated space. This became my new study spot, and others followed of course!” Ms. Scott is now involved with similar, complex historical preservation projects as a Fuss & O’Neill Environmental Scientist that specializes in inspection, design, and construction management services relating to the as-built environment.
The Old Chapel was awarded the designation of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification, the second-highest certification designation after LEED Platinum. The LEED system is used to rate design, construction, operation, and maintenance of sustainable buildings that are environmentally responsible and efficient. The Old Chapel was carefully designed to use approximately one-third of the amount of potable water and one-fifth of the amount of energy; this is important to the campus vision, distinguishing UMass as a leader in sustainability.