Something old is new again
Tech’s original library and second oldest building on campus is being renovated for a cutting-edge business community that has its eyes and ideas on the future.
Vacant a dozen years, the second-oldest building on the Louisiana Tech campus is being renovated for a futuristic role.
In roughly 18 months, the University’s original library and later its Visual Arts Building will open as the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center. Erected in 1926 in Colonial Revival style, the “brand” of the campus, the building will serve as a gateway to Tech’s new Enterprise Campus, not only in its physical location but in the types of collaborative and innovative activities to prosper inside.
“Architect Mike Walpole did a superb job of creating a high quality space that preserved the historical character of the building while creating a 21st century learning environment inside,” said Les Guice, Tech’s vice president for research and development.
Now being gutted, the building was first the University’s Prescott Library, housed today in Wyly Tower. Current Tech president Dan Reneau can speak to what an inspiration the building was then. “As students, my wife Linda and I often pretended to study there in the early 1960s when we were dating,” he said.
It was remodeled in the ’60s to house the art program, and its name changed from Prescott to the Visual Arts Building, or VAB. In 1998, the structure was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Only the Ropp Center, built in 1911 as the home of the University president, is older.
Fifth year architectural students at Tech, under the direction of Tech professor and associate dean Bill Willoughby, designed a project that linked the existing College of Business building to the VAB. The project grew into its current state and will end “not as a standard state government square building with ceiling tiles and all that,” said Tech director of support services Sam Wallace, “but as a building with character that’s going to stay true to the 1926 architecture.”
The Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center should be just as one faculty member hoped it would be when suggestions were taken for the renovation: “… a seamless transition and connection between the historic architecture of Tech and the state of the art technology and mission housed within.”
The one-story building is set on a high basement capped with a cast concrete belt course. The brown and red brick resembles the textured effect found on colonial buildings. Pavilions on each side are connected by a hyphen to the central block. The swan-neck doorways and large round arch windows help give the building an elegant but soft and unthreatening look. Twelve-over-twelve-end pavilion windows and other decorative accents add to the building’s character-defining features.
The ceiling tiles are gone and the building’s original curved barrel plaster ceiling will again be exposed. The cupola, removed from the roof in the 1940s, will be replaced. The connecting link between the College of Business and renovated building will take on the style of the existing VAB.
“The architect has designed a state-of-the-art, technologically rich, flexible facility inside a renovation of one of the campus’ most historic buildings,” Willoughby said. “There’s a medley of workspaces, such as labs, workrooms, and specialized classrooms. Unique to any other building on the Louisiana Tech campus, there will be a tiered-seating auditorium added to the existing structure for special multimedia presentations by faculty, students, and distinguished speakers.
“Once complete,” Willoughby said, “the facility will represent the very best of Louisiana Tech University: an institution that respects its traditions while it innovates for the future.”
Written by Teddy Allen