Campus & Community

Restoration to put new shine on Renaissance Rooms

One of DU’s most beloved, historic places is being renovated this summer. Located on the second floor of the Mary Reed Building, the rooms dubbed Renaissance North and Renaissance South served as part of the University’s library from 1933–72.

“Renaissance North and South are some of the University’s most important signature interior spaces — immediately recognizable and recalled by friends of the University. People remember DU by them,” says University Architect Mark Rodgers.

When Penrose Library opened in 1972, like much of the Mary Reed Building, the Renaissance Rooms were tapped for other purposes. Today, they’re most often used for meetings and formal presentations.

Despite their elegance, the rooms are hot in the summer, cold in the winter and sound absorption makes it difficult to hear.

Rodgers, who is overseeing the project design, says that the restoration will balance the historic aspects with improvements to make the space more useful.

“My role is to provide authentic options,” Rodgers says.

Rodgers has a design and construction team exploring options, such as flooring and lighting that would harken back to the look of the original 1930s architecture. They’re also investigating ways to improve lighting, acoustics, heating and cooling — all without changing the overall character.

Architect Bill Campbell and Facilities Renovation Project Manager Chris Shelton manage the project on a day-to-day basis. Other critical team members include Facilities Director Jeff Bemelen and Mary Ann Shessler, executive assistant in the Office of the Provost.

Campbell says each potential change must be evaluated to see how it impacts other renovations.

“For example, we looked into ceiling fans, but they didn’t work with the acoustics. Now we’re looking into a rooftop cooling unit using historic grills to help get air into the space.”

Crews have already removed flooring and lighting fixtures, and custom designed tables and chairs are in the works. An acoustic report due in August will help the team determine the best way to improve sound. Rodgers anticipates that the work will be completed during the fall term.

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