Tyler Renovations
Tyler Hall renovation to improve student, visitor experiences

Tyler Hall, age 46 and counting, will go into a long-planned construction cocoon after May Commencement, emerging in November 2015 as a 21st century home for the college’s visual and performing arts.

Rendering of future Tyler Hall lobbyIn the SUNY Construction Fund’s estimated $21 million partial renovation, Tyler’s new features promise to support student creativity and collaboration while helping create a patron-friendly arts district on the campus’s west side.

Renovations would improve on what’s coming down inside and outside the building, as the School of Communication, Media and the Arts moves into Phase 1 of a master plan. Down will come key sections of the moat-like exterior wall, the shallow lobby, the divided art galleries, the theatre’s not-easy-to-access seating and the old stage floor and its traps, along with mechanicals built to 1968 specs and safety standards.

Up will go a fully accessible Waterman Theatre with modern seating, lighting, sound and multimedia; a two-story music rehearsal hall doubling as a new venue for small performances; facade improvements that include two inviting new entrances at the building’s eastern corners, leading to a spacious and welcoming lobby; an expanded box office, a new elevator, a larger and more flexible Tyler Art Gallery, a digital media lab and a recording studio; and a host of environmentally friendly improvements to the building’s HVAC and other systems, from lower level to roof.

“There’s still a lot to do in Tyler,” said Fritz Messere, SCMA dean and a key liaison articulating arts faculty needs and ideas to Pfeiffer Partners Architects and their engineering, acoustics and other consultants. “But this first phase really sets the stage by completely renovating the mechanicals, by reconfiguring the entrances and lobby area giving students and the public a place to congregate, and it gives music students a place to rehearse and perform, and students in art, art history and museum studies a better place to study and display their works.”

Bid opening is scheduled for Feb. 5, according to Tom LaMere, director of facilities planning and design for the college. Construction fencing will start going up in April as the general contractor and SUNY Construction Fund personnel begin to mobilize, and the building will empty in the summer.

Arts district

During the renovation period for the 81,500-square-foot hall, the SUNY Oswego art, music and theatre departments and the Artswego Performing Arts Series will offer exhibitions and performances in alternate campus and community locations—using the temporary dislocation as an opportunity to explore new ways of engaging audiences.

“We like the motto adopted by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art as they face a similar situation,” said SCMA Associate Dean Julie Pretzat. “Closed for construction, but more open than ever!”

Many of Tyler’s faculty and staff this summer will move to Hewitt Union, which will continue its many years of transition from student union to academic hall. A key component of SCMA’s plan is to create an arts district full of potential for collaborations among the departments of communication studies, art, music and theatre.

“This is one part of the renovation that is part of a long-term renewal of the entire west quad,” Messere said. “Lanigan, Hewitt, Penfield ... have had no (major) building renovation. The entire west quad will, I hope at some point in the future, benefit the way the middle and east campus—the Campus Center, Shineman, Rich, Sheldon and Park—have benefited from renovation. When that will happen, I don’t know.”

Messere said classroom and lab theatre modernization and many other improvements in Tyler will need to await Phase 2 funding. The money for phases 2 and 3 of the project remain to be allocated in the state’s capital plan.

“My goal is to move all of communication studies and graphic design into a new, reimagined Hewitt Union, and to have an arts precinct or an arts district that combines visual communication, multimedia communication and the fine arts together in one place,” the dean said.

Road to renewal

LaMere said he’s hopeful Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s capital plan could accommodate the remaining work on Tyler and Hewitt a couple of years from now. In the meantime, he said that at any given point in time during Tyler’s Phase 1 renovation there could be up to 60 workers employed in various trades.

The partial renovation of Tyler Hall—four years in the planning in what Messere called a strong collaborative effort among faculty, facilities personnel and designers—promises a fine first step on the road to renewal.

Messere expressed particular excitement about the music rehearsal hall, something the college has never before had.

“The rehearsal hall has been designed in a very striking manner, so it’s going to look very interesting as well,” he said. “It’s really going be to a kind of showplace in some ways, and I think that’s going to encourage students who want to study music to come to Oswego.”

PHOTO CAPTION: Tyler’s future—An architect’s rendering of Tyler Hall’s commons level following renovation shows a larger lobby featuring (background) windows overlooking a new two-story music rehearsal hall on the lower level. The estimated $21 million project—to include a fully renovated and accessible Waterman Theatre, a redesigned and modernized Tyler Art Gallery and a new elevator, digital media lab and recording studio—will kick off this summer, with some faculty and staff moving back in as early as November 2015. (Rendering by Pfeiffer Partners Architects)

(Posted: Jan 27, 2014)