Anthropology has been described as an endeavor to make “the strange familiar, and the familiar strange.” But as anthropology department faculty and staff learned on a recent outing, the latter part can apply to architectural renovation as well! In March we were treated to a unique opportunity to explore Denny Hall in the midst of its remodel, and see the most familiar of settings looking very strange indeed. Staff from BNBuilders helped us suit up and led us on a tour through the spaces we have inhabited for decades, including a deconstructed Room 401, home to so many meetings, exams, and defenses through the years. We will leave it to you to take a wild guess which subdiscipline had the highest representation at this grand architectural “excavation”!
One of the highlights for many visitors was the chance to get an early glimpse at the new central staircase and atrium, which represents a return to the original layout prior to the 1960s remodel. This will undoubtedly be a wonderful first impression for visitors to our building, and a great space for the informal interactions on which communites thrive. The graduate student space on the top floor, with its cathedral ceiling, was another (literal) high point. And for many attendees, it was a chance to see the skeleton of the office they’ll be occupying for years to come. At the end, department administrator Michael Caputi led us to one of the most exciting finds during the renovation: a few feet below the 1894 Denny Hall cornerstone is another cornerstone from the the original 1861 university building downtown. This was apparently relocated, then at some point buried and widely forgotten. A revised plan will make sure that this historic find remains visible to the public.
A hearty thanks to Professor Danny Hoffman, who has been managing all aspects of the Denny remodel and move back and forth to Condon for the department. And of course to all of the workers building the new Denny Hall and making our once and future home a beautiful and productive place to work, study and play for decades to come. We look forward to seeing you all back in Denny later this year!