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FSU rededicates newly renovated Johnston Building

View from the fourth floor of the new,
ultramodern atrium of the William
Johnston Building.

Florida State University President Eric J. Barron rededicated the newly renovated William Johnston Building to the “20th century students who first brought these halls to life” and the “21st century students who will open its doors to the future” during a ceremony held on the evening on Sept. 20.

“Today’s William Johnston Building is a multitasking, carbon-neutral, student-focused learning and gathering place that joins rich, beautiful tradition to smart, contemporary pizazz,” Barron said.

The renovation marries a traditional collegiate Gothic exterior with an ultramodern interior, which includes a dramatic five-story atrium. With 143,000 square feet, it houses portions of the Division of Undergraduate Studies and the colleges of Communication and Information; Human Sciences; and Visual Arts, Theatre and Dance.

The east-facing original section of the building, which contains the Suwannee Dining Hall, was built in 1913. The west-facing, newly renovated section opened in 1939. The entire Johnston Building was known as the Dining Hall for roughly 60 years because it housed a bakery, a creamery, a cannery, an informal dining hall, two formal dining halls and a private dining area for the university president. In the 1980s, the building was named for Florida State benefactor William H. Johnston, a hotelier from Jacksonville, Fla.

During the recent renovation of the 1939 section, great care was taken to preserve many of the building’s historical interior finishes, including the salt-glazed tile wainscot in the foyer of the first-floor lobby and on the second floor between the two formal dining halls, which are now lecture halls; wood ceiling beams and hand-painted cork ceiling tiles that depict sparrows, butterflies, herons and waves; and the cast-stone sculpture of Demeter, the Greek goddess of plenty, which is above the west-front doors.

The architects of Gould Evans Associates and a consultant from H2 Engineering designed the Johnston Building to conform to the standards of the Architecture 2030 Challenge, an initiative by the global architecture and building community to build “carbon neutral” buildings that strive to emit zero greenhouse gases in their operation.

What’s more, FSU is expecting the Johnston Building renovation to receive a LEED Gold rating (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) in the internationally recognized green-building certification system.

“In the 1930s, sustainability was about self-sufficiency,” said lead architect Beverly Frank of Gould Evans Associates. “The campus creamery and cannery were great examples of that. Today, a major goal of creating sustainable building environments has to do with energy efficiency and a ‘building science’ approach to design and construction. A great deal of the remodeling within the existing building involved elements that are not seen or immediately evident, such as insulating the entire building with closed-cell spray foam and installing energy-efficient windows and mechanical systems.”

As another example of an energy-saving measure, the building is outfitted with motion-sensitive lighting that activates at 50 percent of their potential brightness. With the touch of a switch, the lighting can be brought up to 100 percent, but in most cases the reduced lighting level is sufficient, according to Frank.

The building now houses the following units:

DIVISION OF UNDERGRADUATE STUDIES: The ground floor, which has been nicknamed “Johnston Ground,” will house five primary departments. The Academic Center for Excellence Learning Studio will serve as a central location for academic workshops, drop-in or by-appointment tutoring, and study-skills consultations. The Reading-Writing Center will offer writing assistance to students across all majors. The Digital Studio will provide support to individuals or groups working on digital projects, from website design to podcast script writing. The Advising First Center for Exploratory Students will assist students in selecting a major by helping them to place passion and purpose at the center of their educational decisions. And the Advising First Center for Success Coaching will assist new students in transitioning to the university and in making the most of their college experience.

“The ground floor of the new William Johnston Building offers students an innovative array of services designed to foster academic engagement and success,” said Karen Laughlin, dean of Undergraduate Studies. “From freshman to senior year, all students will be welcome to make the most of the Johnston Ground resources as they work to fulfill their goals and aspirations here at FSU.”

COLLEGE OF COMMUNICATION AND INFORMATION: Part of the second floor will house the undergraduate programs in information technology and in information communication and technology, which are both part of the School of Library and Information Studies. Students will have access to state-of-the-art facilities: a 48-seat computer/teaching lab, a hands-on server room, an audiovisual lab with 3-D TV production capabilities, the iSpace Open Source Laboratory, and the Health Informatics Lab.

“The Johnston Building was redesigned and reorganized with interdisciplinary collaboration in mind,” said Larry Dennis, dean of the College of Communication and Information. “We are excited about the opportunity to work closely with our colleagues from around the university, to learn more about their activities, and to integrate what we know about information and communication technology with their work.”

COLLEGE OF HUMAN SCIENCES: All three of the college’s departments will be represented on parts of the third and fourth floors.

“With these new classrooms and laboratories that are specially designed for our programs, our faculty will deliver even more innovative instruction to students,” said Billie J. Collier, dean of the College of Human Sciences. “And we will be proud to showcase the space to our industry partners.”

COLLEGE OF VISUAL ARTS, THEATRE AND DANCE: Parts of the first, second and third floors will house three of the four departments of the School of Art and Design: Art History, Art Education and Interior Design. (The Department of Art remains at the Fine Arts Building at the corner of Copeland and Call streets.)

“This remarkable new building will provide state-of-the-art facilities to these top-tier programs,” said Sally McRorie, dean of the College of Visual Arts, Theatre and Dance. “With shared spaces from a gallery and a resource library to labs and studios with specialized technology, this new home brings these three members of our School of Art and Design into closer collaboration on research and teaching. It’s an engaging environment that is as conducive to learning in the 21st century as it is beautiful.”