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Renovations Continue at Senior House as First Phase Finished

By Dan McGuire

The first phase of the $12 million renovations to Senior House ended this summer with the construction of an elevator shaft and removal of asbestos.

These initial renovations are part of a joint plan created by residents and Ondras Associates Architects to bring the building's systems up to code and also make the dormitory handicapped-accessible.

The renovations will also include replacing the building's aging heating, electrical, and ventilation systems, restructuring some of the rooms, installing an elevator, and changing the location of the front desk.

"We're taking the oldest dorm on campus and renovating the interior," said House Master Henry Jenkins. By next summer, it will become "a state of the art dorm," he said.

The final architectural plans for the renovation were drawn up after a series of meetings last spring between the students and the architectural firm, headed up by Martha E. Ondras '74.

The primary change over the summer involved removing the asbestos in the building's floor tiles and basement and replacing it with carpet. The elevator will be fitted into the new shaft next summer.

"The summer was hectic," said House President Samuel L. Johnson '96. "The house was in disarray."

Construction ended before the school year began so Senior House residents could move back into their rooms. The construction "doesn't really alter the state of life right now," Jenkins said.

Dividing walls to disappear

The bulk of the renovation will take place next summer, as the walls that currently divide the L-shaped house into six separate entries are replaced by corridors on each floor connecting the entries.

While the updates to the building's services are welcome, many residents are apprehensive about the replacement of the dividing walls.

"It's going to make the house like East Campus deviating it from what it used to be like," said Pei-Yi Kim '98, a Senior House resident. The corridors "will make entries names more than places."

"We might lose a lot of our murals" when the walls that hold them are torn down to make space for the hallway, said Neala Rafizadeh '98, another resident.

"People live here not because of the building but because of the people," said this year's rush chair, Christopher H. Barron 96.

Nevertheless, "renovations are necessary. It is an old building [and] eventually an old building will fall apart without renovation," Barron said.

"People are willing to trade off some of the personality of the house" in exchange for more comfortable rooms, he said.

The new building will in fact attempt to maintain some of that personality. Jenkins said that the redesigned house will have a "wandering, meandering feel to it."

There will be a "stronger sense of community through the rearrangement of living spaces," Jenkins said. "A sense of tradition is tremendously important to Senior House," he said. "We want to build for tomorrow while maintaining our current spirit."