Morgens Hall: UC s High-Rise that s More than just High Style

Talk about an extreme makeover.

One of the University of Cincinnati’s “Three Sisters” has undergone a facelift that would make any Hollywood celebrity jealous. The result has Morgens Hall – one of a trio of residence halls built in 1964 – literally shining like the jewel of UC’s on-campus housing in preparation for

apartment-style residential life

in fall semester 2013.

On the corner of West Campus near the intersection of Martin Luther King Drive and Jefferson Avenue, the renovated Morgens juts skyward like a gleaming spike of crystal. Thousands of panes of glass have replaced the old concrete-and-brick exterior, leaving Morgens draped in the architectural equivalent of a red carpet-ready evening gown – revealing yet refined.

UC faculty and staff will have the chance to

meet the “new” Morgens at a pre-opening event at 10 a.m. Aug. 15

. The preview follows one held for students in April. Sarah Evans, a double major in anthropology and classics, and her roommate-to-be Charlotte Kuhlman, an education major, attended the sneak peek after having signed up to live in Morgens back in February. Evans said she saw the

renderings of Morgens’ apartments

online and knew she’d found her next home.

“The apartments are brand new, so we were really excited to be the first people to ever live here,” said Evans, 19, of Madeira. “And it’s just really cool. I think the glass is going to be awesome. We get to people watch.”


While the renovation of Morgens goes much deeper than what’s visible on the surface, it is the sleek exterior that first catches the eye. And that glass offers more than just attention-getting style. It’s also one of the key construction elements that UC anticipates should elevate Morgens to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified status.

Morgens – designed in collaboration with Richard Fleischman + Partners Architects – is clad in

2,000 glass panels featuring a high-tech design

that gives the building a greater insulation value than the original exterior. Each panel is made of two quarter-inch thick windows with a half inch of air space separating each window. The glass has low-emissive properties, making it better than standard glass by preventing heat loss or heat gain.

The panels are also partially adorned with a white linear pattern called “fritting.” The reflective pattern adds another degree of insulation to the glass by decreasing solar heat gain by 20 percent, and it also serves as a visual warning to errant birds. On the inside, the fritting gives the floor-to-ceiling glass walls something similar in appearance to a chair rail.


Underneath all that glass, there are many other unique features that make Morgens the latest example of

innovative, eco-friendly architecture that has been a UC hallmark

since the inception of the university’s Sustainable Design Policy in 2001. Todd Duncan, director of Housing & Food Services (H&FS), and Jack Schnieder, project manager, offer some fun facts about what makes Morgens special on the inside:

  • There are 144 apartment units and a total of 456 beds (38 beds per floor).

  • Apartments are housed on levels 100 to 1200. Level 1400 is a penthouse with two apartments, one each for the resident coordinator and assistant resident coordinator. There is no 13th floor.

  • There are four apartment styles: two-person small studio; two-person standard studio; three-person, two-bedroom apartment; and eight-person, five-bedroom apartment.

  • Morgens is open to students of any academic classification.

  • All available rooms were spoken for less than a month after they became available in February. Students who have submitted housing applications can have their name added to a waiting list for assignment based on cancellations by students already assigned to Morgens.

  • Multiple-occupancy units (studios or two-person bedrooms in the two- or five-bedroom apartments) cost $3,938 per person each semester. Single-occupancy bedrooms in the two- or five-bedroom apartments cost $4,175 per person each semester. (Meal plans are not included in these rates. Meal plans are required for first-year residential students and optional for upperclassmen.)

  • Initial leasing for academic year 2013-14 runs from Aug. 13-May 14. Twelve-month leasing will begin in January for academic year 2014-15.

  • All glass panels have adjustable privacy screens that are 98 percent opaque and thermal weaved for energy conservation.

  • Each apartment will feature a first-of-its-kind piece of furniture developed by UC H&FS staff with an industry partner. The dresser-desk combo’s design allows it to expand and contract, saving residents floor space.

  • The heating and air conditioning is independent for each unit, similar to systems you’d find in a modern hotel room.

Mary Beth McGrew, university architect and associate vice president of Planning, Design and Construction, noted there are other ways Morgens’ renovation aligns with the

UC2019 Academic Master Plan

goal to create a deliberate and responsible approach to our environment and to UC's resources and operations.

For example, the project got off to

a sustainability-conscious start before the first hammer was swung

. Reusing the existing building eliminated the need to send truckloads of debris to a landfill. Plus, on-campus living reduces the use of personal transportation – Morgens residents can walk,

borrow a bike


rent a Zipcar


take a shuttle bus

to get around campus and beyond. And McGrew says Morgens’ “small but elegant” spaces combined with the insulation advantages of the windows and privacy screens will reduce the energy used for lighting, heating and cooling.


Morgens and her sisters – Scioto and Sawyer halls – might have been built at the same time by the same architect, but now it’s hard to discern any family resemblance. To compare how dramatic Morgens’ rejuvenation has been, just take a look at her nearby siblings. Sawyer was razed in 2006, leaving behind little more than her foundation. Scioto has been closed to students since 2008, and discussion is under way on her future.

Morgens Hall and her two sisters

Morgens Hall and her two sisters

The three residence halls were built in 1964 by architectural firm F.W. Pressler & Associates for a total cost of $6,525,890. At the time, the residence halls were meant to usher in a new concept in UC housing: high-rise structures. Four city blocks were cleared to make way for the beginning of construction in 1963.

The UC Board of Trustees voted to

name the northernmost building after Howard J. Morgens, then-president of Procter & Gamble

and holder of an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from UC. The building opened to residents in September 1964, and a dedication attended by Morgens was held a month later. The News Record reported that then-UC President Walter Langsam said Morgens was “one of our country’s most distinguished business executives and civic leaders.”

One thing that set Morgens Hall apart from her sisters was

her original residents: undergraduate, graduate and faculty married couples

. Two years after the 168-unit Morgens opened, rent for an unfurnished apartment was up to $84-$150 a month and furnished apartments were $94-$160 a month.

Fast forward 35 years and the outlook for Morgens was grim. Under a 15-year plan outlined in 2001, UC targeted $170 million in new housing and renovations. The plan called for major renovations to Sawyer and Scioto (in 2005 and 2007, respectively) and for Morgens to meet the wrecking ball in 2015.

Jump ahead another seven years to 2008, and Morgens and Scioto were closed so that building systems, particularly life-safety systems, could be brought up to modern-day standards and code requirements. Once again, Morgens’ future seemed uncertain.

But not only is Morgens now the prettiest sister, turns out she’s also been the luckiest. In June of 2012 a plan was in place to transform the 48-year-old building.

UC has invested $35 million in the renovation

; approximately $30 million is from bonds that H&FS will retire over 20 years from the housing revenues of Morgens. The balance of the project funding is from interest earned on the bond revenues and from H&FS capital reserves.


Soon students will again roam the halls and decorate the walls of Morgens,

continuing nearly five decades of an eternal college tradition – residential life

. UC students will begin moving into Morgens on Aug. 21 to prepare for classes that begin Aug. 26.

Morgens Hall

Morgens Hall exterior

As Morgens lights up that night – full of students peering out the windows and into their futures – it will be a fitting “after” picture to the dark “before” of five summers ago. Joy Watson, 19, a radiology major from Columbus, can’t wait to get her first glimpse of campus from her new vantage point.

“I like the new design,” Watson says. “It seems more up to date and will make me feel more at home. I’m very excited.”


Get a look at Morgens Hall from various perspectives in this

UC Magazine photo gallery



Throughout the summer, additional improvements have been made to some of UC’s other residence halls, and much of the work should be completed in time for fall semester. Calhoun and Turner halls are receiving new in-seam mattresses. A new roof is being installed at Siddall Hall, and front porches are being repaired at Buildings 13 and 21 in the Stratford Heights Complex.


UC has been named among the

world’s most beautiful college campuses by Forbes magazine



UC has been chosen by The Princeton Review for four consecutive years as

one of the top “green” schools in the country


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