Two state-of-the-art facilities: Georgia College breaks ground on new science building and re-opens historic Terrell Hall

Two state-of-the-art facilities: Georgia College breaks ground on new science building and re-opens historic Terrell Hall

G eorgia College commemorated two campus buildings in February with a groundbreaking ceremony for its Integrated Science Complex and ribbon cutting for newly-renovated Terrell Hall. The two facilities mark a combined construction upgrade for the campus worth $35.4 million. 

University President Dr. Steve Dorman was one of a dozen officials who dug ceremonial shovels of dirt—officially commencing construction of Georgia College’s first new academic structure to be built since the Arts and Sciences building in 1995. The Integrated Science Complex will be located at the corner of Montgomery and Wilkinson Streets across from Herty Hall.

Dorman also presided over a ribbon cutting at Terrell Hall on Front Campus. Originally built in 1908, Terrell is one of the university’s oldest structures. Years ago, it was a dormitory. More recently, Terrell housed various department offices. Its new use will be for communication technology and studies. 

“I am delighted to break ground on our new Integrated Science Complex,” Dorman said. “This will greatly expand upon our existing strengths in our science programs at Georgia College and provide our students and faculty members with state-of-the-art facilities focused on science, technology and research.”

“In addition,” he said, “I am delighted to re-open historic Terrell Hall. The improvements we made to the historical character of the building are breathtaking. This facility brings together all the relevant areas of mass communications and media studies, and it greatly expands opportunities for our students.”

New Integrated Science Complexto be completed in late spring 2021.
New Integrated Science Complexto be completed in late spring 2021.

Lobby of the new science building.
Lobby of the new science building.
The $22.1 million Integrated Science Complex will be three full floors with advanced equipment and spaces for students to gather, collaborate and use for study. Completion for the 43,000 sq. ft. building is slated for late spring 2021. New space will allow the university to offer a concentration in the growing field of forensic chemistry and more science education courses for students who want to teach science.

Planning the building was challenging, due to “the weirdest juxtaposition of dissimilar architecture anywhere on campus,” said University Architect Michael Rickenbaker. Next door is Kilpatrick, which is mid-century modern. Across the street is also modernist—the oldest section of Herty Hall, built in the 1950s. Diagonally across the street is neo-classical Parks Memorial. 

“It’s a conflicted site. But we looked back to the entire campus with the porch element,” Rickenbaker said. “Brick windows with details around them give depth reminiscent of our older buildings. We even referenced back to the industrial age to look almost like factories that used to be in this end of town.”

“At the end of the day,” he said, “we feel confident we have something that really looks like it belongs here.”

At the groundbreaking, Dr. Jim James, vice chancellor for real estate and facilities at the University System of Georgia (USG), said Georgia College’s campus is a favorite of his. The Integrated Science Complex “was a really tough project,” blending old and new, that met its design goals.

You have this iconic—arguably, one of the most or the most beautiful campus in our system—with buildings over a 100 years old that you can’t replicate today. So, how do you build a new science building with technology that didn’t exist 100 years ago and architecturally tie it back to the campus? ... I would like to say this was one of the most successful design projects that’s I’ve experienced in my years at the university system.”
– USG Vice Chancellor for Real Estate and Facilities Dr. Jim Jones

The architectural design is striking for its wide expanses of glass windows, making it a beacon of light at night, Rickenbaker said. Inside, all teaching and research laboratories have walls of windows—allowing visitors to walk the perimeter of each floor and see science-on-display. 

New lab with glass walls for viewing.
New lab with glass walls for viewing.
New labs with glass walls for viewing.Labs will open into an interior passageway, called the linear equipment room, that’ll be shared by all science faculty and students. This shared equipment space is unique to universities our size, Rickenbaker said. There will be a refrigerated room, equipment to identify the structure of organic molecules, imaging and microscopy suites, incubators and spinning centrifuges. On a third-floor balcony, there will also be flats set up for botanic research. 

“The efficiency will be unmatched,” said Dr. Indiren Pillay, chair of biological and environmental sciences. “The building epitomizes a sea-change in the way we think as scientists at Georgia College. This building is a monument to that.”

Planning for the new building began almost as soon as Herty’s new wing was added in 2012. New physics and environmental science programs were part of the reason, said Dr. Chavonda Mills, chair of chemistry, physics and astronomy. The new majors brought in additional faculty and students. Herty also services core courses for pre-nursing, exercise science and health sciences.

As undergraduate research grew—becoming a transformative experience at Georgia College—space was needed even more.

“It’s always been there, in our DNA so-to-speak,” Pillay said. “It’s natural for us as scientists to provide research for our students. But now it’s become more of an emphasis for the mission of the university and, much like our colleagues in theatre and other experiential programs, we’ve seen an uptick in what we want to do with our students.”

Dorman suggested a new building across the street, and planning began. Classrooms will remain at Herty, along with the observatory, planetarium and Museum of Natural History. Teaching and research labs will be at the Integrated Science Complex.

The new building will allow sciences to move beyond traditional lab work and into problem-based research, Pillay said. This requires more time in labs for students. Immediate access to instruments in the linear equipment room will also be immensely beneficial for students and faculty, Mills said. All disciplines will share space and equipment. She’s excited about the potential for collaboration and hopes it’ll lead to more innovative research. 

“There’s a lot of functionality there,” Mills said. “There aren’t any spaces that won’t be utilized.”

“It’s an open concept,” Pillay agreed. “We’re moving away from the concept of territories in departments. There will be a lot of interconnectedness.” 

The community will be welcomed into this new space with beautiful landscaping that also acts as a science lab. There’ll be a pollinator garden for butterflies and bees; an ecosystem of shrubs and trees used in experimentation; a cement bio-swale that retains water and becomes a manmade pond in the rain. Water will drain into other areas of the topography. 

Outside, traditional Georgia College rocking chairs will beckon. Inside, hallway walls will display research posters and traveling exhibits of art. The first display will be African-American art, in honor of Milledgeville’s Slatter family, who owned a house on the property years ago. The site will be marked with a memorial plaque.

Mark Bowen, project manager for Facilities Planning, is overseeing construction. Architectural work was done by Cooper Carry of Atlanta, and Sheridan Construction in Macon will do the building. Once the Integrated Science Complex is completed, plans will begin to renovate Herty Hall. 

“The project team has worked well with our faculty and staff throughout the design phases,” Bowen said. “It truly has been a collaborative effort that will culminate in a facility that’ll meet the programmatic needs of the university for many years.”

Stunning woodwork was uncovered at Terrell.
Stunning woodwork was uncovered at Terrell.

Terrell’s $13.3 million renovations took two years to complete. Rick Ruark, associate director for Facilities Planning, was project manager with Lord Aeck Sargent in Atlanta doing the architecture drawings.  More than 180,000 hours of labor were put into Terrell’s renovations, said Sean Moxley, president of Garbutt Construction Company in Dublin, which did the work.

Dr. Eric Tenbus, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said the new Terrell Hall is “gorgeous and puts the communication department into the 21st century. When students pursue mass communication, digital media, journalism and rhetoric at Georgia College, he said, they can be assured of having access to the most advanced equipment.  

Terrell Hall represents another fusion that is important to our atmosphere at a public liberal arts university. And, here, I refer to the fusion of the modern state-of-the-art with the historic in one space.
– Dr. Eric Tenbus

Much like the new Integrated Complex, bringing together art and science, Tenbus said “Terrell Hall represents another fusion that is important to our atmosphere at a public liberal arts university. And, here, I refer to the fusion of the modern state-of-the-art with the historic in one space.”

Historic elements obscured in the 1970s were salvaged—like higher ceilings, wider hallways, old flooring and windows that were covered up. 

Close to 30 coats of paint were stripped off the wood in stairwells and corridors to reveal stunning original woodwork. Arches along main hallways were rediscovered early in the project, Rickenbaker said, and restored. Most of the original materials used to build this turn-of-the-century beauty have been historically and painstakingly preserved. 

Terrell now has central air conditioning and full use of its basement. Modern updates include advanced multimedia laboratories and engaged-learning classrooms featuring cutting-edge communications technology. There are small classrooms, sun-filled work spaces for students, a large screening room and debate area. 

Georgia College’s collaborative student newsroom will also be in Terrell. Student media will work together in one multipurpose space—the university’s live TV news organization, GC360; student newspaper, the Colonnade; and student radio station, WGUR 95.3. Facilities include a versatile production studio and new radio station. Students will have the tools to practice modern, digital-first journalism and experiment with innovative news delivery, while also producing a traditional newspaper and television/radio newscasts. 

Associate Professor of Communication Dr. James Schiffman hopes the Terrell newsroom will make Georgia College ‘the’ place to go for journalism education in Georgia. He believes the collaborative learning environment will give journalists a leg-up in today’s unpredictable media landscape.

“I’m really excited to get back into Terrell,” Schiffman said. “We have an opportunity to transform student media here into something that it hasn’t been before.”