Campus & Community

DU’s newest residence hall opens

With gold shears slicing a red satin ribbon and praise and pride on every tongue, nearly 400 people gathered Aug. 21 to formally dedicate DU’s first “green” residence hall on a brilliant blue August afternoon.

Nagel Hall, a 356-bed, $39.8 million building named for Ralph and Trish Nagel, who donated $4 million to the project, officially became the newest of DU’s 21 residence facilities.

“It is a magnificent building in the grand tradition of DU buildings,” Chancellor Robert Coombe said. “Ralph and Trish are truly great friends of the University and a force for good.”

Praise for the project flowed from a host of dignitaries, including former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, who praised the Nagels’ “caring and commitment” and “remarkable generosity.”

Trustee Pat Livingston called Ralph Nagel “a knight on a white horse,” whose gift sparked the financing and whose artistic influence aided its design.

Nagel is about immersion in the DU experience, says University Architect Mark Rodgers, who guided the project with H+L Architecture and Gerald H. Phipps as general contractor.

“It’s not just a place providing a pillow,” Rodgers says. “It’s a place to see what DU is all about.

“We want interaction.”

To achieve that, Rodgers’ team designed building elements attractive not only to students but also to faculty and staff.

Among them are:
•    Thirty-three apartments with lounge spaces and study rooms to make living on campus more attractive to juniors and seniors.
•    An enlarged public zone so more of the building is available to the entire DU community.
•    Food service that emphasizes “grab and go” and offers “coffee early in the morning and pizza late at night.”
•    Academic elements such as the Center for Teaching and Learning and psychology classrooms and faculty offices to promote the feeling that the building contributes to learning.

Other elements add to the inviting feel of the building as well. A breezeway to the east courtyard lets campus visitors walk through the building without entering.

Window designs vary by floor as a way of signaling differences in room styles. Some were inspired by an Italian cathedral, Rodgers says. Other windows are more whimsical, such as the four nautical-quality portholes at ground level on the north side.

The exterior of the building is a mix of limestone, brick and copper. Decorative fencing on the east side is as ornate as hand-crafted wrought iron but was actually constructed from drain covers.

The building has four public entrances in addition to restricted ones. This is to promote the idea of different uses for different people.

“It doesn’t mean this building is less secure for residents,” Rodgers says. “It just means that more of the building is dedicated to being open. The idea was to balance Nelson’s ‘introspection and destination’ with Grand Central Station.”

Nagel’s interior is a mix of blond “sunset” brick and delicious-sounding paint colors with names like chocolate éclair, French pomegranate and pumpkin. The hallways are extra wide to promote conversation, and the design of the apartment units was varied so students could debate the merits of each. When students move in Sept. 5, Nagel will house about 220 sophomores, 90 juniors and 30 seniors.

The building has a den with a wall-mounted television for football games and space for bull sessions. There’s a game room with shuffleboard, pool table and video games. The basement offers storage for about 80 bicycles and a nearby bathroom with small shower.

“You can ride your bike, store your bike in the building, take a shower, get changed, walk upstairs grab a coffee at the coffee shop and head on to wherever you’re going,” Rodgers says.

The café, which has not yet been named, will offer Starbucks coffee and food items from 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. The Salsa Rico Mexican Grill and Cucina Rustica brick-oven pizza will remain open into the evening. The restaurants are run by campus food vendor Sodexho, which will adjust hours to meet demand. Full-scale service begins Sept. 7.

Brightly colored seating at the glassed south end of the building lets diners meet and eat, while a second dining area in the basement, which Rodgers affectionately calls “the cave,” can accommodate overflow.

“The hope is you have just as much chance that the guy in front of you is a faculty member as that the girl behind you is a classmate while you’re waiting to get your coffee,” Rodgers says.

Resident rooms are furnished and include energy-efficient refrigerators and microwaves. Dual-flush toilets conserve water and plastic-coated handles “protect against germs,” according to the manufacturer. There’s a laundry area on the first floor, and every living area has at least one screened window to allow fresh air.

The building has ADA-compliant rooms with wheelchair-level peepholes and there’s low-water-use fescue grass in the courtyard.

One special amenity is a University-owned art collection of acclaimed painters from Colorado and France. The more than two-dozen paintings were purchased specifically for the residence hall, says Dan Jacobs, art curator and Myhren Gallery director. The bulk of the art will be displayed in restricted study areas in the cylindrical tower beneath the copper-sheathed spire in the building’s northwest corner.

What it adds up to is a “romantic” building, Rodgers says, that blends in well and encourages use.

Patti Helton, associate provost for Campus Life, called it a special building that began with a box of Legos, a sheaf of new concepts and a dream.

On Thursday that dream came true.

Watch video from the dedication.

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