Construction Update: Falls Hall and the Peabody Institute

Significant progress has been made on the construction of the new music building, Falls Hall, and the renovation of the interior of the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology.

Ryan Wheeler, Director and Chair of Archaeology at the Peabody, detailed the two phases of the Peabody’s renovation process. Though the first phase is currently in progress, the second phase is still seeking fundraising, according to Wheeler. 

“The first phase has mostly focused on the basement, which is where the artifact collection is stored and will be stored… There’ll be fire suppression in the basement, which we’ve never had. There will be really good climate control in the basement, which we’ve also never had,” said Wheeler. “And then there’ll be an elevator…in the basement, first floor, and second floor, so there’ll be greatly improved accessibility.”

Wheeler continued, detailing the project’s second phase. 

“Phase two is renovating the classroom spaces and the rest of the building workspaces: fire suppression, extending the fire system to the rest of the building…air conditioning, and probably a lot of plumbing… Right now, we have two classroom spaces, one is on the first [floor] and one in the library on the second floor. Phase two will wind up with four classroom spaces that can all be used at the same time,” said Wheeler. 

Due to minor complications during Peabody’s renovation, the project has fallen behind schedule, according to Wheeler.  The building’s reopening is estimated to be in early 2024 instead of this October. 

“They’ve done some additional work, like sealing the windows in the basement. That wasn’t one of the [original] goals. I think getting some of the equipment has been just taking longer… We relocated a lot of the collections to the first floor of the building,” Wheeler said. “And those collections weigh about 28 tons, so they added some support columns under that space. Just for safety’s sake… We’re going to have to move some of the collections down into the basement so that they can take those supports out and finish their work there.”

Abbey Siegfried, Chair of the Music Department, shared details on the construction of Falls Hall, the future music building on campus. Siegfried noted significant progress in the building’s performance hall.

“The biggest change and progress that’s been made since May is actually constructing the building. If you go look at the construction site, the entire shell of the performance hall, the largest performance space, is now complete. All of [its] walls are up, and now [construction] is going on from there,” said Siegfried. 

Siegfried added that the building will be divided into two sections, one for performance and one for rehearsal.

“There’s a section that runs east-to-west and a section that runs north-to-south, but the performance hall is the major part of the section that runs between Graves [Hall] and Phelps House,” said Siegfried. “And if you look [at this section], the [entire hall] is all there now. There’s this big picture window that when you’re sitting in the hall, you will have this view of the [greenery outside].” 

The construction of Falls Hall remains on track to finish in Fall of 2024. Besides the minor delay from the superstorm several weeks ago, the progress has been smooth, according to Siegfried.

“As we get closer, we’re having meetings about things like what furniture will be in the building, what computers and software and things like that will be in the building, so that’s a really exciting thing to really start to nail down,” said Siegfried. 

Ruth Davis, Records Clerk and Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Drafter at the Office of Physical Plant, described the specific challenges for the Peabody and Falls Hall projects. With the Peabody, Davis highlighted the space constraints and concerns for the preservation of the current collection.

“At the Peabody, the challenges have to do with the tight project site and limited space for material laydown. Another challenge is the fact that the collection remains in the building, so the security and protection of those pieces on an active construction site has been a priority,” wrote Davis in an email to The Phillipian

Davis continued, highlighting the construction challenges for Falls Hall.

“[Falls Hall] will be cooled and heated using 32 geothermal wells. Once the well drilling started in earnest, we encountered three to four times the amount of water expected. We literally had water gushing into the air like Old Faithful. [Another] challenge is the acoustical detailing for Falls Hall. Since this is a music building, ensuring that sound is isolated when it needs to be or reverberates when desired, such as in a performance space, requires great attention to the details of the construction,” wrote Davis.