Franklin Hall preserves tradition but sports high-tech, green features

Carrie Latimer • Aug. 30, 2016
Commons with screen
The commons area, with its 24-by-12-foot screen suspended above, is ready for viewers, who can use an app to listen to individual stations on their phones. (Courtesy photo)

Standing just inside the iconic Sample Gates, Franklin Hall is breathing new life into the heart of the IU Bloomington campus.

The Old Crescent used to be an administrative hub in a low-traffic corner of campus. It’s now abuzz with the excitement of a new school year and a new beginning for The Media School.

Inaugurated in fall 2015, The Media School brought together the former School of Journalism, Department of Communication and Culture and Department of Telecommunications. The Media School, entering its second year, is now at home in the newly renovated Franklin Hall.

Originally completed in 1907, Franklin Hall first served as the campus library and later the student services building and class registration site.

“It’s the historical part that I love the most,” said IU director of construction management Gary Chambers. “Just thinking about how it was originally and what it looks like now, it’s amazing.”

The original part of the building is the L-shape that now houses Presidents Hall. The “stacks” were added in the mid-1920s and the mid-1950s to accommodate a growing library collection, and they now house faculty and staff offices.

Franklin Hall has undergone multiple renovations over its many years, but the newest renovation is by far the most dramatic.

What is now an open-concept central commons used to be divided into different floors and rooms. After the installation of the skylight, the floors were removed and the heart of the building was transformed.

Ken and Audrey Beckley Studio
The Beckley Studio features state-of-the-art technology, including windows that can appear dark with the use of a camera filter. (Taylor Haggerty | The Media School)

“Where the second floor is right now there was actually a ceiling,” said project engineer Jimmie McElroy. “So we had to cut all of that out, cut out the roof, put the skylight in and then drop out that second floor.”

The nine tons of glass let light pour into the heart of the building, but also have the capability to reduce the amount of light let in with digital shading. This keeps the building bright but also has the potential to reduce energy needed for heating and cooling.

Aside from the skylight, there’s the obvious jaw-dropper: the 24-foot-by-12-foot TV screen towering over the central commons.

The screen can be divided to broadcast six different displays at once or broadcast a single feed, perfect for viewing parties on election night and, of course, watching Hoosier basketball in March. Viewers can listen to the audio on an individual screen segment using an app called Tunity, which synchronizes the viewer’s phone with that part of the screen. Word is still out on if Dean James Shanahan gets a giant remote.

The screen is also surprisingly green. It operates at 40 percent brightness and uses the energy of just three hairdryers. The screen’s eco-friendly qualities actually helped Franklin Hall earn a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver certification.

“The LEED silver certification is pretty impressive,” said Jay Kincaid, director of facilities and technology for The Media School, “especially for an old building like Franklin Hall.”

And the shiny new stuff isn’t just for show; it will play a central role in student learning. The Media School’s investment in technology is exemplified in the new Ken and Audrey Beckley Studio, located just off the central commons.

Two workers from Reflections Mirror and Glass in Indianapolis steadied a pane of glass before fitting it into the frame of the Franklin Hall skylight. (Anne Kibbler| The Media School)

The studio was built thanks to a generous donation from former news broadcaster Ken Beckley and his wife, Audrey, both IU alumni. Designed by IU MFA grad Christopher Rhoton, the space incorporates a vintage, loft-inspired design with top-of-the-line technology to teach students video production on the same equipment the pros use.

The studio also features windows that overlook the Old Crescent. The original plan called for the windows to be covered, but instead, the school invested in RoscoVIEW polarizing lens filter technology, which enables camera operators to adjust their lenses to control light coming in from the windows. Students working with the cameras can craft the perfect shot while incorporating classic IU scenery.

The blend of old and new in the studio is just one example of how technology has transformed the historical building without sacrificing its character.

“There are so many different exciting parts of this building that it’s difficult to choose a favorite” said Media School Dean James Shanahan. “But it already feels like somebody’s living room to me, which is great for The Media School. It’s a place where people feel comfortable to come and meet other people and hang out.”

As the new school year begins, The Media School is finally under one giant glass roof. The new arrangements facilitate more open communication between students, staff and faculty.

Dean James Shanahan
Dean James Shanahan calls the school’s new home “a welcoming place.” (Taylor Haggerty | The Media School)

“You have now different types of faculty and different students who are going to be in contact with each other,” Shanahan said. “There will be opportunities for more connections to be made.”

Shanahan hopes that people from all corners of campus will feel at home when they visit our new place.

“It’s a welcoming place,” he said. “It’s a place for people to meet each other. It’s a place for ideas to come into contact with each other. So come on in. The TV’s on. Have a seat and kick back.”