When students once again wander the hallways and sit in the classrooms at the Carl F. Eyring Science Center next month, it won't be the first time the building has opened incomplete.
The remodeling of the Science Center is one of several major construction projects under way at Brigham Young University. While classes are scheduled to begin there Monday, the building's two-year face lift is not yet finished. Construction crews will complete work on the building even as students and professors occupy it during winter semester.For the Science Center, and those old enough to have been present at its original opening in 1950, it's deja vu.
"We weren't complete when we first started, so history is repeating itself," said Irvin G. Bassett, a BYU staff member who is monitoring the remodeling. "There was a bit of inconvenience then and we've got a bit of inconvenience now."
Bassett, who supervises the Summerhays Planetarium housed in the Science Center, even carries around a copy of a dedication program dated Oct. 17, 1950. A note at the bottom of the program explains the delay in finishing construction work.
"Cutbacks in building material due to the war and work stoppage due to factory strikes have prevented the completion of this structure and of the furnishings by this date," the note says.
The construction crews of 1997, however, don't have the excuse of a war or a major strike for being late. Work just took longer than anticipated. But critical areas are expected to be ready.
"We're not in as big a hurry to finish the research labs as we are the classrooms," Bassett said.
When the building does open, it will house the department of physics and astronomy and the department of biology and agriculture. Those two departments were in the center before and have used space elsewhere the past three years.
The department of food science and nutrition will move into the Eyring Science Center for the first time, replacing the department of chemistry, which is now housed elsewhere. Food science and nutrition formerly was split between two other buildings.
Professors and students will notice the building's new multimedia capabilities, as well as new rolling shelves to house rock collections and a sensory lab where food taste tests will take place. They will also appreciate redone classrooms and lecture halls and labs that include computers.
Meanwhile, other visitors to the Science Center will be relieved to know some old standbys aren't changing. The ever-popular planetarium remains largely unchanged, although it was somewhat remodeled after construction crews inadvertently removed its roof and rains flooded it.
"It turns out to be a blessing," Bassett said. "It's an expensive blessing, though."
Other favorites - especially of elementary school children who regularly arrive on field trips - have remained intact. The underground acoustics room and the large pendulum in the foyer were not changed. Bassett said seismic and geologic displays will also be return in the main foyer area.
"We have a lot of elementary schools and other visiting groups that come through," Bassett said. "Young people really enjoy the hands-on displays."
Several years ago, the building was judged to be in need of either a remodeling or complete replacement. It did not meet contemporary earthquake standards, nor did it measure up to electrical codes and other utility requirements. Instead of building from scratch, administrators decided to salvage the building's exterior and replace the interior.
In the design process, administrators included space for a public dining room in the main foyer. The lunch-only establishment not only gives food science and nutrition students a place to gain experience, but it also provides those on the south end of campus with somewhere to eat.
Also included in the new building's design were silver strips along the walls that were patterned after the rings of Uranus. As students make their way around a circular kitchen area, the strips do indeed invoke images of the distant planet's rings.Comment on this story
Another improvement is replacement of the ventilation system. Bassett said astronomy projects suffered in the old building because numerous fans caused vibrations that made taking good pictures of the heavens very difficult. The new system should preclude the vibrations, he said.
The building is scheduled to be rededicated March 10. Administrators say students and professors should be pleased with the reconstruction, even though it means favorite nooks and crannies have changed.
"There's some nostalgia there but, still, there's a need to get things done the way they ought to be," Bassett said.