Princeton University: Updating a classic

October 06, 2008 |
The project involved the reconstruction of three interconnected collegiate gothic buildings and the 145-foot-tall Holder Memorial Tower and construction of two underground utility vaults on the Princeton University campus. The buildings, constructed between 1915 and 1918, serve both Rockefeller and Mathey Colleges.
Gothic architecture is so ingrained in Princeton University’s heritage that the architects and engineers of New York A/E firm Einhorn Yaffee Prescott made no significant changes to the exterior of the institution’s Holder, Hamilton, Madison, and Holder Memorial Tower halls during an extensive four-year, $65 million, 170,000-sf renovation. But that didn’t make the project facing EYP any less daunting.

View of the Rockefeller College dining hall. A lounge area was created in both of the main dining rooms to provide for informal gathering. Renovations included the replacement of all building systems, plaster repairs, paneling repairs and refinishing, renovation of the original smaller lighting fixtures, and creation of new central chandeliers to supplement them, gas fireplace inserts, and installation of acoustical banners.
The former central kitchen and two cafeteria-style serveries were replaced with a new marketplace-style servery that connects the two college dining halls. The design of the space utilizes the industrial aesthetic of the former kitchen, provides a warm and inviting experience and blends with the adjacent Gothic dining halls. A mechanical mezzanine was inserted into one end of this space to provide cooling and ventilation.
Each phase of construction had to be completed within a rigid schedule to allow re-occupancy for the following academic year.
Exterior restoration work included replacement of all copper roof flashings, gutters and downspouts, repairs to the graduated slate roofs, selected stone pointing and cleaning and repair and/or replacement of leaded glass windows.

The massive renovation project included structural repairs to the load-bearing, stone-masonry tower, faithful repair and restoration of all the buildings’ exteriors, and a combination of restoration and modernization of the student residence and dining facilities to meet the University’s new four-year residential college plan. All mechanical, electrical, access, safety, and data systems were upgraded and integrated with the existing wiring and networks of the four halls.

Designed by architect Charles Klauder, FAIA (1872-1938), and constructed between 1915 and 1918, the complex serves two of Princeton’s six residential colleges, Rockefeller and Mathey Colleges. Holder Hall is undergraduate residence hall serving Rockefeller College, and Hamilton Hall is a similar facility serving Mathey College. Madison Hall contains dining facilities and common spaces for the two colleges.

The renovation required replacement of all mechanical, electrical, plumbing, telecommunications, and security systems and the installation of new sprinklers. The buildings, which had never been handicapped accessible, had new elevators added and new entries created to accommodate the disabled.

Student rooms, bathrooms, and common spaces were renovated and in many instances rearranged to accommodate new program requirements. Although the buildings required extensive renovations to meet the program demands, Princeton also required that the historic character of the buildings be maintained. The former central kitchen became two cafeteria-style serveries and a seldom-used library became the new common room for Mathey College.

The stone façades of all four halls, their slate roofs, and other exterior elements were meticulously restored to their original look and feel. Where needed, stones were repaired and the façades were cleaned.

As part of the reorganization of the Residential College System, the new four-year Residential Colleges were paired with a two-year college. As Mathey College and Rockefeller College already shared some facilities, they became a logical pairing.

The main challenge for the Building Team was to modernize the structure with new living areas utilizing very confined spaces, while maintaining the building’s historic character.

According to Mark Thaler, project architect with EYP, creative design and construction approaches helped the team make all necessary modifications without significantly reducing the number of students the hall could house.

For instance, at the very upper portion of the residence hall, previously unused attic space was transformed into bedrooms. The dining halls, long held to their early 20th-century design, received a massive systems upgrade which allowed for the more welcoming café style interior design with lots of free space for students to mingle.

The design of an underground utility vault was a critical element in the renovation of the complex. It allowed the removal of an antiquated electrical substation that had been housed in the basement of Madison Hall, freeing up that space for university use. The new vault allowed for easier removal and replacement of equipment and eliminated a major potential hazard for the buildings. The construction of the new vault, which provides power to the entire northwest corner of the Princeton campus, required underpinning of the adjacent Hamilton and Joline halls.

Two archways were completely disassembled and reconstructed to allow the floors above to be lowered. The change in one of the archways allowed level 2 of Hamilton Hall on one side and Madison Hall on the other side to be aligned. The connector is now a major pathway to and from the Mathey College’s dining hall and administrative offices.

The complete restoration of the 145-foot Holder Memorial Tower presented significant challenges, too, because of its size and how much meticulous interior restoration was necessary. The tower was restored in phases over the four years of the project. 


Project Summary

Princeton University: Renovation of Holder Hall, Hamilton Hall, Madison Hall, Holder Memorial Tower, and Holder and Hamilton Courtyards; Princeton, NJ

Building Team
Submitting firm: Einhorn Yaffee Prescott, Architecture & Engineering, P.C. (architect/engineer)

Construction manager: Irwin & Leighton, Inc

Restoration architects: VCBO Architecture, Max J. Smith Architects, Schooley Caldwell Masonry conservation consultant: Building and Monument Conservation

General Information

Size: 170,000 sf

Cost: $65 million

Construction time: April 2004 - February 2008

Delivery method/contract type: CM at Risk
Overlay Init