Altogether Now

Indiana University historic building Old Crescent


With stately stone buildings, broad leafy lawns and shade trees, the campus of Indiana University Bloomington (IU) can proudly stand in the company of any leading research university. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the historic Old Crescent, the core portion of campus whose original landscaping was designed by the Olmsted brothers. The entrance to the Crescent is through Sample Gates, the iconic photograph of Indiana University.

Over the years the landmark buildings of the Old Crescent have been given over to administrative functions and lost their central role in the academic life of the university. Chief among these was Franklin Hall, IU’s original library, which had become a venue for student services and finance operations.

University President Michael McRobbie revealed other ideas for the future of the Old Crescent. In his State of the University address in 2010, he said: “…The way we use the magnificent iconic buildings that comprise the Old Crescent…does not properly reflect the university’s core missions of education and research. Whether we intend it or not, our buildings reflect our values. The Old Crescent should be among the main academic centers on campus and a vibrant hub of student and academic life and activity, day and night.”

Around the same time, leading deans and provosts at the university began discussing a daring plan: combining IU’s highly ranked School of Journalism with equally renowned departments of Telecommunications and Communication and Culture. The three entities had operated independently for a very long time, but the visionaries felt certain they could combine the programs under a new name: The IU Media School. Leading the charge was Jean C. Robinson, Ph.D., associate executive dean, College of Arts and Science; and Bob Richardson, AIA, NCARB, MBA, senior associate university architect.

In 2012, Provost Lauren Robel met with Executive Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Larry Singell and interim Dean of the School of Journalism Michael Evans; the three formed a committee whose charge was to develop a plan to merge the three disciplines into a Media School by the Fall 2012 semester.

Updating an Historic Space


Will This Work?

Concept in hand, the question still remained: Could a Romanesque building, designed in 1908 by the Chicago firm of Patton and Miller, support a curriculum that by its very nature is dynamic, with ever-changing technology and media convergence? Could such a traditional building house an engaging learning and research community that is state-of-the-art and cutting edge?

GUND Partnership of Cambridge, MA, with VPS Architecture of Evansville, IN, were hired at the end of 2013 to undertake the complete renovation of Franklin Hall. It seemed like a daunting task: There were deep interior spaces that were depressingly dark; a 1955 stacks addition to the library had left low floor-to-ceiling heights and closely spaced columns; the windows were old and not energy-efficient, certainly not for Indiana winters.

Senior Associate University Architect Bob Richardson’s charge to the architects was to create active neighborhoods where students and faculty could engage in impromptu meetings; where small groups of students could study together; and where light and transparency would replace ponderous darkness. The challenge was also to reconcile the programmatic needs of the autonomous programs of education and research in journalism, telecommunications, communications and culture, and film within a limited building footprint and a modest construction budget of about $17 million.

Updating an Historic Space


Updating an Historic Space

The big design move was a vibrant Commons at the very core of the building. Occupants will enter the historic lobby and then proceed into the stunning double height, sky-lit Commons. Not only will this move bring light into the heart of the building, it will immerse the visitor in the energy and activity of the Media School. Standing in the center of the space, an occupant will be able to see a campus television studio; the university newspaper under production; and a live radio broadcast. A large video monitor will carry both student-produced content and the latest world news. The space will be peppered with comfortable furniture where students can stake out their own territory while studying with friends, waiting for class to begin or just hanging out. Open early morning until late at night, this will be a digital agora, a marketplace of activity and ideas connecting previously disconnected disciplines.

“We wanted as much transparency in the building as possible,” says Executive Dean Robinson. “This was important not only functionally, that is to bring light into the center of a large building, but conceptually — we wanted to expose the workings of journalism, media production, and communications research to students and the public.”

What to do with the former book stack area? Faculty and staff offices will be placed there in more open offices so all have access to daylight. It won’t be journalism professors in one corner and communications theorists in another. The space will allow them to work collaboratively across disciplines. Entrances to office areas are strategically placed so faculty will traverse the Commons as they enter or leave the building. Again, creating more opportunities to engage students and faculty with each other.

“The building will create a climate that will not only facilitate communication across fields, but also make the workspace for faculty, staff and students organically integrated,” Robinson says. “Rather than isolating faculty research areas of the school within their own set of spaces, we deliberately chose to scatter faculty on different floors, to push that integration further.”

Updating an Historic Space


The entire building will be technology-rich with video-editing suites, a gaming den and sophisticated media research labs. Former library reading spaces are transformed into technology-rich active learning classrooms. As much as possible, these spaces are not departmentalized but multipurpose, flexible and accessible to all. As new media and curriculum is conceived, the building can flex to support it.

Satisfying Results

The IU Media School is the culmination of a strong master-planning direction and a daring re-imagination of curriculum that will be a catalyst to the historic Old Crescent’s rebirth as an academic hub. The successful collaboration of the college leadership, the university architect and design architects have breathed new life and light into an academic program and a landmark building. The building design will unify the disciplines and allow the program to evolve for decades to come.

Franklin Hall is nearing completion of its construction phase, and the excitement is building on the IU campus about the new Media School and its landmark new home. It is slated to be open for the Fall 2016 semester.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .