Kirkland Hall renovation to enhance accessibility, upgrade infrastructure

Kirkland Hall, which is central to Vanderbilt’s history and widely recognized as the university’s signature building, will undergo a significant renovation that is reflective of the institution’s purpose and commitment to excellence.

Chancellor Daniel Diermeier (John Russell/Vanderbilt)
Chancellor Daniel Diermeier (John Russell/Vanderbilt University)

“With the university’s sesquicentennial celebration on the horizon, this is the ideal time to make critical updates to ensure that Kirkland Hall is accessible and inviting and that it represents our great university fully,” Chancellor Daniel Diermeier said. “We want to preserve and accentuate the historic grandeur of one of our most treasured campus buildings while transforming its interior spaces to support the functional and aspirational goals of our university community.”

Kirkland Hall, which opened in 1875, initially housed all of Vanderbilt’s classrooms and laboratories. It was rebuilt in 1906 after a devastating fire, and the iconic building with a 170-foot clock tower has remained a hub of campus and administrative life. Originally called “Main Building,” it was renamed in honor of Vanderbilt’s second chancellor, James Hampton Kirkland, and his wife, Mary Henderson Kirkland, in 1937. Kirkland’s last major renovation took place in 1988, when the current HVAC and electrical systems were installed.

The Vanderbilt Board of Trust Executive Committee reviewed and approved the renovation plans at its June meeting.

Vice Chancellor for Administration Eric Kopstain emphasized that the renovation will be aligned with FutureVU’s campus planning framework and its core themes, which include accessibility and inclusion, connectivity and community enhancement, and sustainability.

Vice Chancellor for Administration Eric Kopstain (Vanderbilt University)

“We want to update and improve Kirkland Hall’s overall accessibility—making the spaces more inclusive and compliant with ADA regulations—while addressing critical infrastructure improvements,” Kopstain said. “The renovation plan will reimagine the front entrance to Kirkland to make both ground level entrances fully accessible through grading changes, ramp implementation and reconfiguration of parts of the esplanade area in front of the building. We also want to transform the building’s interior to intentionally optimize collaboration and communication among leadership and staff members.”

Among other planned improvements:

  • Modifying the trench drain line at the loading dock to avert flooding of the first floor  during heavy rains
  • Restoring the building roof and tile coping
  • Upgrading stair towers to enhance safety and vertical circulation through the building
  • Redesigning bathrooms to be gender neutral

Centric Architecture, a Nashville-based design firm, is leading the Kirkland Hall renovation. Centric recently completed the 6 Magnolia Circle, Mayborn and Connector buildings project on the Peabody campus, for which it received a Historic Preservation Award of Excellence from Associated General Contractors of America.

The renovation is scheduled to begin this winter, with all Kirkland-based employees working elsewhere for the duration of the project. The project’s completion date goal is spring 2023.