Carpenter’s replacement

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The remains of Carpenter Hall. Photo by Francesca Norman.

Following the demolition of decades-old Carpenter Hall, the University of Dallas will cultivate a green space in its place, eventually hoping to build a new auditorium nearby.

The university would like to replace Lynch Auditorium in the area near Carpenter, but has not yet raised the necessary funds or created a definite plan, according to Provost Jonathan Sanford.

“If we build, we probably won’t build exactly where Carpenter was, but somewhere near here,” Sanford said.

In the meantime, the university will create a new grassy “park-like” area on what is now the Carpenter site, according to Sanford. The new Campus Space Committee is working with Karin Rilley, vice president of board relations and general counsel, to create this space.

It will be a beautiful area “to walk and contemplate,” Sanford said.

It is unclear how long this green area will remain, since planning for the auditorium is only in its preliminary stage.

However, Sanford acknowledged the necessity of another gathering space on campus after the demolition of Lynch Auditorium in 2016. He noted that upon the completion of the demolition, a new auditorium for music is “sort of next in the queue.”

Kristin Van Cleve, the director of UD’s music program, says that a new auditorium has the potential to significantly alter both the music community and “the UD community at large.”

According to Van Cleve, the department hosts 10-15 performances per semester, the large part of which are performed in the Catholic Foundations Boardroom in Cardinal Farrell Hall, the Church of the Incarnation, and the Art History Auditorium.

In previous years, the Music Department performed in Lynch Auditorium and upstairs Haggar, which has since been converted into the Office of Student Affairs.

In addition to creating an attractive and musically superior performance space for current students, a new auditorium could act as an incentive to new students, Van Cleve said.

The university would be able to present guest artist performances, which would in turn attract a wider audience to the university and would also raise the visibility of UD in the community,” Van Cleve wrote.

While a new auditorium will primarily function as a music hall, Sanford said that the building could also be used for musical theatre.

Yet, he added that most drama productions could not be held in the proposed auditorium, as set designs would conflict with the performance space required for other events.

“Think, for instance, of The Cherry Orchard set—one couldn’t swipe that out for a standard set up for a notable speaker one night and then put it back together the next night,” Sanford wrote.

“So, we do also need a new theater for drama,” Sanford concluded.

While the need to construct two new buildings appears daunting, Sanford wrote that “with God’s grace and the generosity of donors, we’ll get there eventually.”

For junior drama performer Dolores Mihalik, a larger performance space would spell an abundance of new forms of creativity.

“Thinking about an auditorium, and the types of productions they could do, the lighting they could put in, the sound effects they could use — that’s really, really, exciting,” Mihalik said in an interview, especially citing the possible introduction of musicals into UD Drama’s repertoire.

A new auditorium could change the nature of the performances available to the drama department, as the size of  Margaret Jonsson Theatre (MJT), currently used for drama productions, limits a production’s cast size, thus hindering their creative ability.

For now, in addition to planning the new park, Rilley is overseeing the demolition of Carpenter.

The demolition process was complicated by the discovery of asbestos in the building, Sanford said.

One of the campus’ original structures, Carpenter Hall was built in the 1950s when asbestos was used in construction due to its fire-retardant properties. However, asbestos was later found to cause diseases including mesothelioma, a form of cancer which primarily affects the lungs.

In order to ensure the well-being of students and the demolition crew, the process was slowed to allow the proper handling of the dangerous fibrous materials, Sanford said.

The abatement process began this past June and demolition started almost a month ago, according to Rilley.

In addition to the primary demolition crew, the university also brought in an asbestos specialist company to aid in the appropriate disposal of the asbestos.

Rilley said she expects demolition to be complete by next week.

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