A Political Move

19 April 2021

Thanks to a generous gift from Michael Hasenstab ’95 and his wife, Mary Ann, Old Music Hall is set to be refurbished and repurposed.

First Floor Lobby Hasenstab Hall
First Floor Lobby

A few years ago, when Carleton’s music department decamped from its longtime home on the Bald Spot to take up residence in the new Weitz Center for Creativity, faculty and staff members left behind a structure that — apart from some furniture updates and the removal of the original pipe organ — had barely been touched in a century. In fact, until very recently, Old Music Hall looked just as it did when it was christened “new” Music Hall in 1914.

The doors of the intimate practice rooms were still lined with sound-deadening leather. And the building’s brick-and-stone Gothic exterior was exactly as the Chicago-based architecture firm intended, except in the summertime, when air conditioning units hang out the windows.

This July, though — thanks to a generous gift from Michael Hasenstab ’95 and his wife, Mary Ann — the harmonies that once filled Old Music will be replaced by chaotic construction noise. After a top-to-bottom makeover, set to be complete in the fall of 2022, the structure will be renamed Hasenstab Hall and be home to the Department of Political Science, which currently shares quarters in Willis Hall with the economics department.

“I’m humbled and excited by Michael and Mary Ann’s gift,” says Carleton president Steve Poskanzer. “This stem-to-stern renovation of Old Music Hall purposefully takes into account the future academic trajectory of our political science department and its teaching and research needs.”

Third Floor Engagement Space Hasenstab Hall
Third Floor Engagement Space

A member of Carleton’s Board of Trustees, Hasenstab studied political science and international relations at the college and now serves as executive vice president and chief investment officer for Templeton Global Macro. In 2015 he told Forbes magazine that the late Roy Grow, storied director of Carleton’s international relations program, helped him “look behind the scenes . . . and understand that political complexities drive certain outcomes.”

“At Carleton, I developed a foundation of knowledge and a way of critically looking at the world that has been essential to my professional growth,” Hasenstab says. “Mary Ann and I are fortunate to be in a position to support the college’s continued excellence in preparing future global leaders, in part by ensuring they have the opportunity to learn in the best academic environment possible.”

Devashree Gupta, chair of the political science department, says the new space will, among other things, provide students and faculty members a much-needed place to study, socialize, and do research. “We’ve seen how other departments have been able to build community by having a central hub where people can gather informally, to talk, get acquainted, and debate interesting questions,” she says.

Political science professor Greg Marfleet, who helped the college assess the department’s key facility needs, says he wasn’t sure how to react when administrators first suggested a new home in Old Music Hall. “I didn’t know much about the structure,” he says. “But when you look past the heavy doors and small rooms and look at the bones, the building is solid. The challenge for the designers was how to carve out larger spaces in the middle of each floor.”

Lower Level Flexible Space Hasenstab Hall
Lower Level Flexible Space

That task fell to Minnesota-based architecture firm LHB. After in-depth discussions with the department and the donors, the firm drew up plans that left the elegant exterior intact and reworked the three floors inside. Compartmentalized spaces will be fused into larger rooms, glass panels in interior walls will allow light to penetrate even the center of the building, and the first-floor entry hall will be expanded to create a welcoming central lobby. A new elevator will be installed, mechanical and electrical service will be updated, and restrooms will be redone for accessibility and all-gender use.

The new space will also allow the department to expand and experiment with new activities and directions in political science, Gupta says. The first floor will house a research/seminar space where, say, polling could be done or students could test technologies related to elections. In the building’s basement, a collaboration and teaching space will feature plenty of blank white walls where poster projects or other exhibits can be put on display for evaluation or discussion. “We’ve tried to make the space as flexible as possible,” Marfleet says, “in the hope of accommodating future and current innovations in the field.”

Gupta notes that the cross-campus move may also foster more interdisciplinary collaboration. Department faculty members already have initiated interdisciplinary work with people in psychology and computing. Proximity to other departments on the east side of campus may lead to further integrated research approaches.

Since the music department’s departure, Old Music Hall has been the temporary home to a number of faculty members and administrators who happened to have offices in other campus buildings undergoing renovations. Gretchen Hofmeister ’85, associate dean of the college, who usually inhabits an office in Laird, temporarily moved into Old Music Hall last year. She was unfamiliar with the building, despite having graduated from Carleton and served on its faculty for decades. Old Music Hall charmed her, she says, and she’s glad to see Carleton preserving its architectural heritage.

Hasenstab, too, is glad to see a campus landmark given a second life, imbued with renewed purpose. “Carleton has always honored its storied history, but has never let that history impede innovation,” he says. “I think everyone involved is excited by the ways in which the renovation will spark new connections and conversations among professors and students, both inside the department and across campus.”

View the Hasenstab Hall floor plans.