Renovated Baker Hall showcases modern updates with historical touches

August 19, 2014 •

Architect Charles Klauder, who set the campus aesthetic in the early 1900s with the design of several buildings, once said, "Many an old grad has reflected that students may come and go, classes enter and graduate, but that venerable walls and carved chimney-pieces, picturesque gables and vaulted archways endure forever."

And so it goes with CU-Boulder's Baker Hall, reopened after its first major renovation in more than 75 years. The restoration of the residence hall melds a modernized interior that better addresses the needs of today’s students with pieces of the building’s original charm, from ornate iron light fixtures to fireplace facades and decorative woodwork left intact.

The renovation project even revealed such relics as 1930s event fliers, hidden in walls, that now are on display in the building -- a view of generations past.

“The 1937 Baker building, the second-oldest residence hall at CU-Boulder, represented an exciting design challenge,” said Thomas Goodhew, assistant director of planning. “The renovation needed to modernize while honoring the building’s rich architectural style created by Charles Klauder.”

Klauder, who was known for his architectural work on university campuses across the country, designed 15 CU-Boulder buildings between 1920 and 1938 including Baker and Sewall Hall. Other CU-Boulder fixtures that he designed include Norlin Library, the University Club and the Economics Building.

All of the 456 student residents of the improved hall are participating in the Baker Residential Academic Program (RAP) held in the building. CU-Boulder has 14 RAPs, programs that integrate courses, educational opportunities and social events among classmates within residence halls along with a high level of faculty engagement.

The Baker RAP is for first- and second-year undergraduates in natural sciences, pre-health and environmental studies. It also offers classes that fulfill core graduation requirements such as political science, philosophy and anthropology.

Some of the 18 courses taking place in the Baker RAP this fall will be in geology, environmental studies, biology, chemistry and weather and the atmosphere, said Cindy Carey, director of the Baker RAP.

“In addition to formal courses, we provide co-curricular adventures that emphasize nature and the environment such as rock climbing, backpacking, volunteer activities and internships,” said Carey. “And we’ve tied the RAP theme into the building renovation, naming the floors of Baker after environments such as ocean, mountain and desert.

“There are visual cues that go along with each floor’s environment, like subtle paint colors, photographs and quotes on display from various people about the value of nature and the importance of protecting the environment,” she said.

Not only do the visual cues of the floors build awareness, but they also help with way-finding, distinguishing various locations in the building from each other, according to Goodhew.

One of the most major changes in the renovation was a transformation of the building’s south side. Formerly a loading dock, the south side now is an entrance that opens internally to split-level common spaces, an academic suite of classrooms and faculty offices, a new round-the-clock front desk and a kitchen for student use. The original north-side entrance remains in place.

Baker now is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and boasts a number of sustainability features that are the standard of new construction on campus to reduce carbon emissions and operating costs. 

The building’s “green” features are especially evident in each student room including “smart” heating and cooling units that automatically turn off when windows are open, vacancy sensors that automatically shut off lights in empty rooms and power outlets that can be switched off to prevent energy consumption when appliances are not in use.

Baker also is outfitted with low-flow plumbing, energy-efficient lighting and increased natural light throughout, as well as a water bottle refill station that displays an estimate of the number of plastic bottles diverted from landfills as users fill up.

The $41.5 million renovation includes 115,000 square feet, 456 beds, 256 student rooms, a hall director apartment, a faculty apartment, four classrooms and 10 faculty offices.