The Furness Building is not the boiler room, but it soon will be the campus hot spot. The University began renovations on the Fine Arts building, which is touted as the premier campus library, five years and $16 million ago. When the building is completed later this semester, it will not just be used by scholars and students. "The Trustees are going to want to have meetings in it and the University will want to throw big parties there," Historic Preservation and Urban Studies Lecturer George Thomas said. "It'll be tough to keep it as a library." Officials said they hope to move Fine Arts offices into the building over winter break, concluding five years of extensive research and construction work to restore the building. Describing the structure as "kind of clunky" with "a lot of character," Thomas, who was a research restoration consultant for the renovations, said the building is the campus' most interesting. Thomas said the 100-year-old building, located on 34th Street near Locust Walk, is unique even in its underlying philosophy. "It's very nearly one of the most modern buildings and one of the first American buildings," he said. "It's a functional experiment." Thomas explained that in designing the building, Philadelphia architect Frank Furness took Ralph Waldo Emerson's "ideas about looking away from Europe and away from the past, and looked instead to the present and future." Associate Art History Professor Renata Holod said the Fine Arts library is one of only a few of Furness' buildings to escape being razed. She added that the red stone building, which she described as Victorian with Romanesque traits, boasts a "flamboyant, colorful" style which Furness pioneered. "Everyone has fake Oxford-Cambridge kind of things," Holod said. "This is definitely not a fake Oxford-Cambridge thing." "It's what makes this campus different from any other campus," she added. Vice President for Facilities Arthur Gravina said yesterday that the three-phase restoration of the building, designated as a national historical landmark, tried to remain faithful to the original design. The first phase involved exterior restoration, including roof repairs and installing leaded glass windows. Workers then installed concrete-reinforced floors and a sprinkler system in the second phase. Although the original floors were made of glass so that natural light could enter, they violated fire and safety codes. The third phase involved restoring the main reading room to its original state.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.