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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Chapel reopens with new look

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Students arriving on campus this term found Skinner Chapel undergoing a remarkable investment project to ensure its usability for the future. The renovations, which were the largest repair work undertaken over the summer, lasted longer than expected, forcing opening convocation outside on a a fortunately pleasant day, and displacing certain campus groups that utilize the chapel.

Steve Sphen, Director of Facilities and Capital Planning, said that the buildings heating and ventilation systems were addressed, as was the Chapel’s organ, which was in need of repair.

In order to ensure the maintenance of the organ, the climate control systems must be maintained, he said, and the need to improve the heating system was taken as an opportunity to improve the usability of the space, as part of a long-term strategy for the facilities department.

This resulted in the decision to install air conditioning into the space, so that it could be used in the warmer months at the beginning and end of the academic year, when the building is often used for ceremonies.

Trying to minimize the impact on the school, the contractors had to remove the pews and try to work within the constraints posed by the 1916 gothic revival chapel. The building had previously used a ventilation system, which was decommissioned in the 1960s. Air was ventilated up from the chambers beneath the basement through grates into the chapel and these chambers were then converted into rooms for over uses such as mini chapel and prayer rooms. The construction workers were surprised to find that not only were the vents bolted, but 12 inches of concrete had been poured into them, a decision which was not recorded on any of the charts or diagrams of the building forcing the builders to drill through and remove the concrete,

One of the aims of the project was to preserve the look of the building, to ensure that the maximum lifespan of the building could be achieved. This proved challenging, but “particularly exciting,” according to Sphen, as restoring the original glass light fixtures to their original aesthetic required a combination of diligent research and guesswork.

The commitment towards preserving the original look of the building does incur costs in time and capital, yet Mr Spehn argued it is justified by the necessity to “do the job right.”

Although campus groups that utilized the chapel were inconvenienced at first, Gaston Lopez ‘17, a Chaplain aide, said he was “amazed by how streamlined a lot of the sound and lights systems are now” and appreciates the improvements, but said they are “still getting used to new kinks.”

“I can see some wear left behind by the renovation, like some cracks in the sanctuary tiles, and the basement floor looks like an eyesore,” he said, hoping that the basement will be re-painted.

“I am delighted with the new renovations,” said Doug Totten ‘16, who regularly attends the Christian worship service “Mustard Seed.” “At the same time as important upgrades were installed, excellent care was taken to preserve the powerful aura of this beautiful building and Carleton landmark,” he said, noting the improved technological abilities.

“Ultimately, I am impressed with the care taken to improve the Chapel while preserving much of what makes it special,” he said.

In addition to the chapel renovation, facilities also worked on re-building the roof of Norse, which cost approximately $1 million dollars. Musser received a new roof, while Cowling’s windows were also replaced. Sphen said that the college is focusing on putting in “systems that are going to last,” so renovation at Carleton is “in it for the long haul.”

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