By Carmen Germino '07 M.Div.
Just three years after completion of a major overhaul of Yale Divinity School's facilities, construction crews have descended once again on Sterling Divinity Quadrangle for a summer of revamping, fine-tuning, and modernizing. The current $4 million project is dwarfed by the renovations undertaken in 1998-2003 at a cost of $49 million, but they are just as vital to the rhythm and spiritual life of the school. The interior of Marquand Chapel is a critical component of the project.
The chapel is almost unrecognizable in its current state. The wood and stone floors have been ripped up. Workers removed one of the chandeliers and put it into storage. Dust covers every surface. The piercing clamor of the arc welder makes it difficult to imagine hearing the Marquand Gospel Choir belt out "Wade in the Water." Rick Kowalczyk, senior project superintendent for construction company Daniel O'Connell's Sons, is quick to assure that the tranquil mood of the chapel will be restored: "It's going to be really nice when we're done."
Chapel renovations are set to be completed by mid-August so that incoming students can enjoy Marquand's pristine new appearance during Before The Fall Orientation. Work in the chapel will resume next summer, when the Institute of Sacred Music will install a new organ . This summer Kowalczyk and his crew are preparing for its arrival. They are expanding the balcony by eight feet and making cosmetic touch-ups to both the interior and the exterior of the chapel, including replacement of the marble on the stairs leading out to the quad.
According to Kowalczyk, come fall the chapel will have a new sound in addition to its new look, even before arrival of the new organ. He reports, "We're making a number of improvements to the sound quality of the space. We've applied an inch of plaster on the sides of the balcony and the ceiling, and we are drilling holes in the walls and filling them with foam to create better sound characteristic. There will also be shutters on all the windows to hold sound in." In addition, the crew has installed beneath the floor and walls almost a mile of electrical conduit, which will be used to power the chapel's updated audio system.
Other portions of the campus are receiving face-lifts as well. Construction crews are busy making improvements to the roofs of the guest cottages flanking the entrance to the quad. They are also refurbishing the exterior of the now-empty rear complex of the quad-with financial support from the University-repointing bricks, installing new roofing and windows, repairing damaged trim, cutting away broken marble steps and replacing them with a more durable bluestone. A higher rear wall will bring the east stairs up to current building codes.
When renovations to Marquand Chapel are complete, the new organ and its 2,191 pipes will have a freshly painted, acoustically improved home, and so will the students, faculty, and staff who worship together daily at Yale Divinity School . Fans of the current organ should not fret, however. It isn't going anywhere. Kowalczyk chuckles as he envisions the old and new organs facing each other across the nave: "It could be 'dueling organs' in here."