The central area of Moran Commons – still hidden from diners’ view during the renovation – is taking shape.
The metal catwalks high above the commons went in late August. The compression ring was hoisted into place earlier this month. The catwalk’s railings were installed week before last.
Some echos of the past are obvious. Evidence remains of a large clock that years ago greeted diners entering from College Avenue. In the 1904 wing of Moran Commons, the old glue-laminated beams (probably from the 1940s-50s) are now exposed, high above, a nice counterpoint to the new glue-lam beams in the center of the commons. And the old cupula – too nice and historic for recycling – has been preserved and likely will go on display in the commons.
Skylights will be a part of the dome, bringing lots of natural light.
A 110-ton capacity crane hoisted the dome’s 5,000-pound wooden beams into place last week, and wooden intermediate struts were placed at intervals between these large wooden beams.
Fred Patrick, director of Facilities Design & Construction, pointed to areas between the beams. “These are where the skylights will be installed,” he said.
Soon, the scaffolding will be taken away. Only the catwalks will remain, with the dome above. An exposed wood roof of arches will span the nearly 107-foot-diameter central space. Five identical curved wooden arch vaults will be constructed along the axis of each existing dining wing. The crown of these vaults will be 41 feet high.
He explained how the compression forces and the tension forces are handled with the dome structure. He pointed to the compression ring at the top center of the catwalks. The tension ring at the bottom of the dome structure will have 20 steel tension rods attached this week.
Impressive engineering. And Moran Commons will appear open and airy, with plenty of natural light and fewer interior walls. You’ll be able to see the plaza and fountain area all the way from the College Avenue entry.
There will be a variety of dining stations – the Mongolian Grill will be directly under the dome.
The commons will provide for a comfortable, user-friendly and modern dining space for Spartans for many years to come. Food prep areas will include Home Style, International, Breakfast, Salad/Soup and Desserts – plus a food theater for demonstration cooking.
The renovation to Moran Commons will be paid for over time by a portion of meal plan fees.
This Phase 3 renovation of Moran Commons is on schedule and will be finished in December. It is scheduled to be open to students, faculty and staff when they return in January.
Story by Mike Harris
Photography by David Wilson