Photo courtesy of Seth Marx
Masters Hall renovations underway
June 13, 2020
A major redesign of the Pittsburgh Library and its surrounding spaces, in addition to parts of the garden level of Masters Hall, is underway. The construction project, which has been in the works for years, should be completed by September 2020. With an emphasis on creating more collaborative and academic spaces, Director of Institutional Advancement Seth Marx said the project is more important now than ever.
The remodeling of the library includes a series of suites, built-in booths and study pods, as well as benches along the perimeter. Dean of Faculty Sam Savage believes these features are the highlights of the project.
“It’s going to create a more defined space for student to student collaboration on a variety of levels, and it’s going to create more space for faculty to work with students,” Savage said.
The construction began last week and is being done by Yorke Construction Corporation, according to Marx. A Library Task Force, which includes Head of School Laura Danforth, Marx, Savage, Head of Upper School Peter Newcomb, librarian Judy Murphy and others, partnered with Marvel Architects to generate the plans.
One of the goals of the task force was to keep the school’s mission statement in mind, specifically the clause, “we gather”, when imagining the new space.
Marx explained why this is especially important considering the current situation.
“At this moment in time, when we are in separate physical spaces and unable to be together, we miss out on not only a human need but certainly an educational need,” he said. “The day that we come back together, we’re going to have innovative spaces that emphasize interaction and collaboration and that makes me very excited.”
Shelves of books will line the walls of the library but in a smaller capacity. Murphy was tasked with culling outdated and underused books. Marx also said the school is still unsure how the furniture from senior class gift will fit into the new space but that administration plans to work with students to find it a new home.
Another major change is that there will no longer be a physical distinction between the McKnight Room and the rest of the library, further opening up the space for all to enjoy; Marx anticipates that seniors will gravitate to front “living room” area, complete with couches and tables.
On the garden level, the day student lounge will be remodeled and expanded better accommodate social interaction. Additionally, the Tower Lab and student-facing administrators’ offices – including those of Dean of Students Jeff Carnevale and Director of Residential Life Dena Torino – will be moved downstairs into the space where the lecture hall was previously.
The Masters Hall rennovation is funded by donors who contributed specifically for this purpose and is part of the school’s Master Plan: a comprehensive road map highlighting the long-term vision for the Masters campus created in 2017, according to an email sent to the upper school by Newcomb on May 22.
While Marx said the school remains committed to completing the construction on schedule, an urgent fundraiser has also been started to help students and families struggling financially during the pandemic. A recent statement in the Masters’ weekly newsletter, The Messenger, states, “The Student Access Fund is a community-led effort dedicated to providing financial support to families impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. The funds raised through this initiative will ensure that all of our students can continue their Masters education without interruption.” The school asks families who are able to support the cause.
Marx explained the comprehensive strategy.
“We’re honoring the mission of the school, the intent of our donors and at the same time we’ve adjusted our approach to meet the needs of our community with a special fundraising effort for financial aid.”
Savage added, “At the end of the day, it’s about honoring the people who are investing in our mission and delivering on that in ways that are going to benefit everybody.” He concluded, “We are an independent school who is delivering an outstanding program in the middle of a deeply challenging time and that’s going to continue next year.”
This story will be updated as new information becomes available.