posted October 20, 2010

Graves Hall Adaptive Restoration Honored

For the second time in as many months, the recent adaptive restoration of Graves Hall is receiving recognition for excellence.

The project is being named the area's top historical-renovation project in the 2010 Construction Awards Program of the Western Michigan Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., and will be honored during a banquet on Tuesday, Oct. 26, at the Pinnacle Center in Hudsonville.  The program will present awards in several categories, such as historical renovation/remodeling, new construction, renovation and/or additions and green building.

On Saturday, Sept. 25, the Grand Valley American Institute of Architects (GVAIA) recognized the project in the Historic Preservation/Adaptive Reuse category of its 2010 Honor Awards program.

Dedicated in 1894, Graves Hall re-opened in August 2009 after a year-long, $5.7 million, adaptive restoration that emphasized a return to the building's original character while updating the 19th-century landmark for use in the 21st.

Construction manager for the project was Lakewood Construction Inc. of Holland.  Architectural design was by Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber Inc. of Grand Rapids.

Graves was constructed as the college's chapel and library, but ceased serving as first one and then the other when Dimnent Memorial Chapel and Van Zoeren Library opened in 1929 and 1961 respectively.  Renovations in 1962 and 1980 reconfigured the building for new use, but at the expense of much of its beauty.

In both updating and restoring the historic structure, the latest work has been informed by original blueprints as well as photographs and even living memory.  Remade were the distinctive art-glass windows that were once a fixture in Winants Auditorium, a connection to the space's original use as Hope's chapel but removed in 1980 due to their deterioration.  As when the building opened in 1894, the second floor features four large classrooms, the varnished wooden doors and wainscoting without suggesting the classic elegance of a bygone era.  The main staircase, isolated behind metal doors in the 1962 redo, again greets visitors to the main lobby.  As prior to the restoration, the ground floor of the building continues to house the Upward Bound and CASA programs, as well as the Schoon Meditation Chapel, all in improved space.

A major new addition - built of stone to match the rest of the building and facing the Pine Grove - includes an elevator that provides access for the first time to the top and ground floors for those with mobility impairments.  Other features where the library stacks once stood include an additional classroom and the "Presidents' Room" conference room featuring portraits of all of Hope's presidents.  Additional amenities undreamed-of when the structure was built include wireless Internet service and wiring throughout for access to the complete array of technologies that exist in support of education and air conditioning.

Associated Builders and Contractors is a national association representing more than 24,000 merit shop construction and construction-related firms in 78 chapters across the United States.  There are four chapters in Michigan:  the Western Michigan Chapter, based in Grand Rapids; the Central Michigan Chapter, based in Lansing; the Saginaw Valley Chapter, based in Midland; and the Southeastern Michigan Chapter, based in Madison Heights.