Posted in news on June 7, 2017 2:34 pm EDT

University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Old Chapel Unveiled

Finegold Alexander Architects announces the official re-opening of the University of Massachusetts Amherst's Old Chapel. The chapel, first opened in 1885, sits at the historic center of the campus.

The Victorian Society in America recognized the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Old Chapel with a prestigious Commendation Award. The award honors the quality of the restoration and adaptive re-use of the building, which stood empty on the campus for more than 15 years. Images courtesy of Finegold Alexander Architects.











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TAGS: architecture, community connection, historic renovation, worship space,


By Church Designer Staff

The completion and official re-opening of the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Old Chapel was marked with a ribbon cutting in spring 2017, according to representatives for Finegold Alexander Architects of Boston.

Today, the Old Chapel has emerged following a two-year, $21-million renovation as a vibrant community space for student gatherings, exhibits and events.

The most iconic and widely recognized building on campus, the Old Chapel first opened in 1885 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The building closed in 1999 because it no longer met code and accessibility requirements. Today, the Old Chapel has emerged following a two-year, $21-million renovation as a vibrant community space for student gatherings, exhibits and events. The project is targeted for LEED Gold certification.

“The historic preservation and renovation of the UMass Amherst Old Chapel allows the iconic building to remain central to the beauty of the campus while serving several new uses,” says Regan Shields Ives, principal of Finegold Alexander Architects. “Preserving this campus icon is key to the continuity of UMass Amherst’s heritage, and we are pleased to have been part of this landmark project.”

Restoration with modern thinking

“Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, during his first visit to UMass Amherst, envisioned a restored Old Chapel as an inspiring and dynamic space for all who live, work and visit at the Commonwealth’s flagship campus,” reports Ed Blaguszewski, executive director of strategic communications at UMass Amherst. “Finegold Alexander and everyone involved in this project have done an extraordinary job in restoring this jewel to its rightful place in campus life.”

The first floor provides a flexible layout for social gatherings, study and events and will serve as a general campus resource. The top floor Great Hall provides a large open space for lectures, seminars, performances and banquets. The building will be available for weddings and private events in the future.

The restoration preserved the best aspects of the historic building while adding an accessible arrival sequence and a contemporary glass-entry addition. Internally, an elevator, building systems and technology were sensitively woven into the historic fabric. An underground mechanical vault houses the main mechanical, electrical and plumbing service to the building and ties into the campus utility infrastructure. A 12-panel interactive display wall on the first floor can be used for presentations, exhibits or general campus information.

The backstory

The chapel was originally designed by Steven C. Earle in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, constructed in 1884 as a multi-purpose facility for lectures, religious services, a library and reading room. The building was renovated in 1936 and served as a classroom building for more than 60 years, but was closed in 1999 for code and access deficiencies. In 2014, Finegold Alexander Architects, along with a team of engineers and specialists, began to evaluate the building for restoration and transformation.




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Finegold Alexander Architects



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