Remodeling in Holland, Rolvaag

Pardon our dust. St. Olaf College has recently adopted the massive undertaking of renovating Holland Hall and Rolvaag Memorial Library. While construction is well underway in Rolvaag and expected to be finished by Thanksgiving, the extensive changes planned for Holland Hall wil not begin until January and will require the building to close for 18 months. Both of these buildings have served students well over the years, but the administration has plans to improve these facilities to support students even further.

While the exterior of Holland Hall will not change, there will be major modifications inside the building. These alterations will be so vast that the approximately 70 faculty members occupying Holland – from the History, Economics, Political Science, Sociology, Anthropology, Philosophy, Nursing and Social Work departments – will have to temporarily relocate to the current IT and Telecommunications offices.

Holland Hall was built in 1925 and dedicated in honor of the college’s 50th anniversary. The Norman Gothic design was inspired by a fortress monastery in Normandy, France. The building was renovated in 1968, and according to Assistant Vice-President for Facilities Pete Sandberg, this renovation changed the interior of the building drastically. Most notably, the renovation prevented daylight from traveling very far into the building.

The upcoming construction will place a “big emphasis on getting daylight into areas where students are,” Sandberg said. Large openings in the floor by the windows on the third floor will “drive daylight down to the second floor where it never had been before.”

Besides an increase in the flow of light, other prominent features of the new design include a new entry on the first floor with a common area and grand staircase, open spaces on the third floor, and beautiful student study spaces along the curved stone wall in the east wing of the building on the fourth and fifth floors.

“It’s really going to be neat that we’ve got a big constituency design team from all the affected academic departments, the Dean’s Offices, Provost’s Offices, the Registrar’s Offices and two current students at St. Olaf,” Sandberg said.

One of those students is Claire Bents ’16. According to Bents, the new building design has several open lounge spaces throughout the building, eliminating the need to perch upon a heater in the hallway while waiting for a meeting with a professor. She is also excited about the redesign of the sixth floor, which may come to resemble the lounge space on the sixth floor in Regents of Mathematical Sciences.

While the renovations in Rolvaag are not quite as extensive as those that will take place in Holland, there are still a number of significant changes in store. Perhaps the most significant change is the extension of Rolvaag’s fourth floor. The new fourth floor will contain the offices for the IT department along with a new area tentatively titled the “Digital Scholarship Center.”

The DSC will be a mixed-use space with a computer teaching space (which students can reserve when not in use), an open technology space with about sixteen computers and a mix of casual seating, study booths, tables and chairs. This new space will contain a 3D printer and large format printers previously located in the media lab in the lower level of Rolvaag. The DSC will also have a room specifically intended for video recording and a room intended for audio recording.

According to the Director of IT and Libraries Roberta Lembke, “a student focus drove even the development of our office space.” Not wanting to take up space that students could use, the IT department decided to accept smaller offices on the fourth floor in order to free up space. There will now be four new group study rooms along with meeting rooms that can be utilized when not otherwise occupied.

“We don’t want to give the impression of something that is [only accessible] by invitation,” Assistant Director of Instructional Technology Benjamin Gottfried said.

Rather, the college wants to create “a space where students could feel welcome to come and just work using what’s available. That’s been a part of the design from the beginning.”

Considering how much thought and consideration for the students the college has put into the renovations in both Rolvaag and Holland, students have reason to be excited.