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Switzler reinvented

Oldest academic building on campus gets makeover

For those who studied, taught and toiled there, the creaking floors gave the place away — not to mention a vertigo-inducing back stairway and 90-plus windows, each eight feet tall, filtering light everywhere and radiating cold and heat through office and classroom alike.

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When Switzler Hall reopened for classes in August 2011, the venerable landmark on Francis Quadrangle became notable as both the oldest classroom building and the newest classrooms on campus. Sunlight continues to stream in, but modern safety features, centralized climate systems and numerous electrical outlets have brought Switzler into the 21st century.

New techniques in construction management and planning turned Switzler and the nearby Tate Hall into MU models for renovating with a shortened time frame. Architectural plans, simple building materials, and closer coordination between architect, contractor and engineers streamlined the process. New mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems made two historic buildings into new and efficient learning spaces.

Switzler’s makeover was all the more impressive since the distinctive brick structure was a landmark, and the need for more space required an architecturally sensitive addition.

As crews removed the old interior floors and supports, intricate systems of tension rods and cables stabilized the brick shell as a concrete frame, and floors were built within.

Even the bell in Switzler’s Tower, originally rung by hand to signal class changes, has received an update. More recently, an electromagnetic coil powered the clapper to strike, but that system failed last year. The technical services staff in the College of Engineering created a one-of-a-kind coil assembly. Updated computer hardware and software allows Switzler’s bell to be rung via Ethernet connection from Jesse Hall.

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