Vanderbilt Divinity School will break ground on an $11.5 million renovation and 13,641-square-foot addition May 5.
The official groundbreaking will be at 11:30 a.m. on the 21st Avenue side of the Divinity School quadrangle.
“Vanderbilt Divinity School has long been a leader in theological education,” Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan R. Wente said. “However, the building’s current design reflects the vision of past generations. As we look to the school’s future, we must create new spaces that capitalize on its distinctive and welcoming culture and inspire innovative thinking about ministry and justice in the 21st century.”
Vanderbilt Divinity School is one of a small number of university-based divinity schools in the United States. The current facility, located at 411 21st Ave. S., has not been updated since it opened in 1960.
“A renovated and larger building is a critical need for the school,” said Emilie M. Townes, dean of the Divinity School and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society. With these improvements, we will not only have better teaching and gathering spaces, we will create a more collaborative environment, a place where our community can discover, question and create change.”
Design highlights include:
- an easily accessible and distinguishable main entrance, which will feature an outdoor plaza and light-filled atrium;
- a multipurpose space for worship, meetings and musical events;
- new classrooms equipped with smart technology, including a large classroom and smaller ones for seminars;
- an outdoor terrace for solitary reflection, small group gatherings and larger events;
- additional spaces for group meetings as well as gathering places for standing weekly events, such as Monday Forum, Wednesday Worship and Friday Coffee Hour;
- office suites for administrative and program leaders to foster collaboration among faculty, students and staff.
The Divinity School was founded in 1875 as the Biblical Department of Vanderbilt University. It operated under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, until May 1914. Since that date, it has carried on its work as an ecumenical theological school under the leadership of the university’s Board of Trust.
“The Divinity School is committed to advancing as a leader for a new kind of theological education that takes into account the global expansion of religion and the shifting demographics within the United States,” Townes said.
She noted that the school is committed to growing responsibly in a way that respects the environment. Energy efficiency will be a high priority of the project, and the school will pursue LEED certification.
Gilbert, McLaughlin, Casella Architects designed the new space, while Orion Building Corporation will serve as construction manager. The renovation will begin in summer 2017.