UMass Amherst Chapel Reopens After Renovation

Umass Amherst's Old Chapel has recently reopened after an extensive renovation following an almost 20-year closure.  Old Chapel at the University of Massachusetts is the most recognizable historic landmark on the Umass Amherst campus. Designed by architect Stephen C. Earle, and built in 1884 when the school was known as the Massachusetts Agricultural College, the building initially served as a multi-purpose facility to accommodate lectures, religious services, a library and reading room. Operating as a classroom building for over sixty years, the building was closed in 1999 due to non-compliant code issues and had remained shuttered for over fifteen years.

Finegold Alexander Architects has designed the restoration, renovation, and new entry addition to the Old Chapel. The renovation has turned the historic Chapel into a thriving center for student activities and assembly at the heart of the campus. In terms of program, the first floor houses exhibition, student activities, and meeting spaces. The upper floor includes a multi-purpose space for lectures, events, presentations, small-scale performances, and banquets. The renovations feature new building systems and make the building universally accessible.

The renovation has highlighted many of the original beautiful details of the Old Chapel construction, and improved building performance. A glass enclosed pavilion creates an inviting and celebrated new main entrance to the building in the south elevation. Two existing windows on the South elevation are modified to accommodate new doors thus creating an energy efficient air lock outside of the existing building. A new double height entry lobby with an elevator joins the space between the two stair halls. The opening between the 1st and 2nd floor allows building occupants to catch a glimpse of the existing timber framed 2nd floor ceiling. The 2nd floor Great Hall remains much like the original with the exception of proposed changes to the platform and balcony areas.  The existing rose window on the north elevation has been uncovered and viewed from the Great Hall for the first time since 1936. A new mechanical vault is located below grade and outside of the building adjacent to the basement. The basement houses the public toilets, catering kitchen, and storage.

The renovation of the Old Chapel is targeting LEED Gold certification.  The Green Engineer's scope on the project involved LEED Project Management and sustainable design consulting.