Outdated building methods used in constructing the Chapel have led administrators to hire a skilled team to restore the ceiling of the 82-year-old icon at the heart of campus.
The work being done on the Duke Chapel is two-fold—in addition to the restoration on the ceilings, some of the many stained glass windows are being cleaned and polished. Every year a number of windows are taken down and are taken to Michigan to receive maintenance before being put into place again, said Sara Blaine, event and wedding coordinator for the Chapel.
A restoration team from Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. recommended that work should be done on the ceiling of the Chapel to correct issues stemming from the techniques employed during the building’s original construction. The Chapel held its first commencement in 1932, though it was not formally dedicated until 1935.
“Restoration work is required to preserve and maintain the beauty and use of the Chapel building for future generations,” Chapel Communications Specialist Adrienne Koch said.
During the 2012-13 academic year, the Chapel was closed for a period of time as a WJE team of structural engineers, materials scientists and architects removed pews, set up scaffolding and surveyed damage to the ceiling, Koch said.
Through their analysis, the team determined that the techniques used to construct the ceiling were insufficient to maintain the building in coming years, wrote Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, in an email Tuesday.
WJE’s current projects include restoration of the Washington Monument and National Cathedral which were damaged by an earthquake in 2011.
Maintenance and restoration of the windows which began in January will be completed this semester and will not require a Chapel closure, Koch said.
The restoration of the ceiling, however, might require a closure at some point though the plans and schedule are still being developed , Schoenfeld wrote.
The Chapel’s activities will continue even if venue changes need to occur, Koch said.
The two projects’ are funded by the University’s maintenance budget, Schoenfeld said.
“The Chapel is the most visible building on campus,” he wrote. “It is the symbol of Duke that is recognized around the world and we are taking special care to ensure that it will remain that way for generations to come.”