by Greta Petry (October 16, 2006)
University Hall Opens
University at Albany faculty and staff gave the new administration building the thumbs-up at the official opening of University Hall on Oct. 16.
At a morning reception, the new building's 3,000-square-foot atrium was filled with faculty like Leonard A. Slade Jr., chair and professor of the Department of Africana Studies, who said, "I think it's a handsome building, aesthetically pleasing and quite practical. It makes a very favorable impression on visitors because it's so palatial."
Linda Wheeler, who works for the Office of the Provost in the new, roughly 45,000-square-foot office building, said that since moving in, she has been spending more time on the main campus. "I've even started using the tunnels again," said Wheeler, director of Academic Events. A utility and pedestrian tunnel connects to the main service tunnel in the Academic Podium on campus.
In opening remarks, Provost Susan Herbst welcomed Philip Wood, general manager of the SUNY Construction Fund, and Robert Siegel of Gwathmey-Seigel Architects, the building's designers.
"University Hall is both beautiful and functional and, I think, succeeds in all the ways those who first conceived of it hoped it would."
Herbst said University Hall is decorated with artwork from the University Art Museum collections that "was created by some of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century, as well as our own talented students, faculty, and alumni."
Asked about the artwork, University Art Museum Director Janet Riker said the museum aims "to share, to educate and to enhance," with its 3,000-piece collection. At University Hall, prints and other artwork "enhance the work environment." She added, "It really humanizes a building."
Siegel said part of the plan was to make the building "a sculpture" and a counterpoint to Edward Durell Stone's unique architectural design of the main campus. A description by the architects notes "The uniform, serpentine glass curtain wall and the curved metal clad entry piece establish these contrasts and heighten the sculptural distinction of our concept."
Siegel noted the new building was situated so that "everyone could look out (the window) and see the original campus."
Construction began in September 2003, and about 100 UAlbany administrators and staff moved into it in July, most of them from the University Administration Building (UAB) on Western Avenue.
More than 3,500 mirrored glass panels adorn the outside of the building, which has room for 100 visitors in its Admissions assembly room, and cost $11.3 million to construct.
Planning began under former President Karen R. Hitchcock's tenure. In 2000, various administrative offices, including the president's, were temporarily moved to UAB. John Giarrusso, associate vice president for operations in the Division of Finance and Business, said, "Having the Admissions function right here on the circle is highly advantageous for recruitment; and bringing the administration functions closer to the academic center of campus was also beneficial for overall planning and operations."