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Borland-Manske Center Opens New Chapter for Campus

September 01, 2019 - 8 minute read

Concordia’s newest building edition to campus, the Borland-Manske Center, offers new experiences and tools for CUI students.

The new Borland-Manske Center marks a generational change in the life of Concordia University Irvine, helping to define the future and set even higher standards of excellence in facilities, academics and campus life. With its two connected wings, high-tech classrooms and grand lobbies, the building brings together the music department and Christ College, CUI’s School of Theology, Philosophy and Church Vocations.

And with nearly 38,000 square feet and sweeping new views, the BMC does much more.

“The Borland-Manske Center shifts the center of campus to the west side,” says Provost Peter Senkbeil, noting that a wide range of subjects are being taught in the building’s five general purpose classrooms.

President Kurt Krueger calls it “the most beautiful, stunning, thoughtfully-designed and carefully-made building on campus. Our hope is that it will provide space for learning, study and practice for sixty or seventy years, and maybe beyond, because it is built so well.”

As the most significant building project in Concordia Irvine’s history, in scope, size and cost, the $30 million project speaks to a bigger vision of God’s potential for the institution, says Tim Jaeger, executive vice president for university advancement.

“The level of excellence and professionalism is of such higher quality that it can’t help but attract more students, enrich their experiences and prepare and equip them to share their God-given talents,” Jaeger says.

Big Challenges

But the huge structure wasn’t easy to build. Tim Odle, vice president of athletics and facility services, spent more time than anyone working with the builder and architect during the three-year construction. Above-average rainfall delayed progress for many weeks. Then the crews hit bedrock, which core samples had not revealed and which presented a major challenge to digging thirty feet below ground level as the plan required.

Then heavy equipment discovered buried water and gas lines in unexpected locations.

“The BMC was very difficult to build,” says Odle. “I believe that because the next generation of worship and church leaders will come out of this building, we had a lot of challenges to get it done. God has great plans for this building on Concordia’s campus, and it was a fight from the beginning. Nothing came easy, but we continued to persevere and push through.”

The bedrock problem was turned into a solution of sorts by grinding the hard rock into dirt which was used in the construction. Re-routing water and gas lines added two months but did not create any further crises. Other challenges were built in to the plans.

Because the BMC houses world-class music facilities, it was designed with the help of acousticians to create sonically pure and protected spaces. Special acoustic drywall manufactured on the East Coast was used throughout. All interior and exterior walls are one to two feet thick, with empty space between the walls to stop noise from passing through. The entire structure uses thirty percent more steel than normal, for the reduction of harmonics and to stop the transference of sound throughout the building. The foundation is a series of isolated slabs so that even the rebar isn’t connected.

“It’s a jewel box within a jewel box within a jewel box,” as Odle describes it. “Everything is layered on the inside. There is lining in the air conditioning shafts, vents and duct work to slow down the sound. It’s absolutely amazing.”

That attention to detail demanded unusual coordination, care and patience. Specially made acoustic drywall and other pieces were made-to-fit, and damaging one meant weeks long delays.

It’s a jewel box within a jewel box within a jewel box.

“We had to slow everything down when installing these specialty pieces,” Odle says.

Thick walls also meant lost square footage inside the building. To minimize lost space, the architect moved staircases to the outside of the building.

New Levels of Sound

Student Owen Duncan ’20, a music and English double major and pre-seminary minor, plays the trombone in Concordia’s orchestra and bands, and sings in the choir. A few weeks ago, he practiced his instrument in the building for the first time.

“I thought, ‘Oh, wow, this must be the best practice room,’” he says. “I sounded much better. The next day I went to another one and that one sounded amazing too! It has made practicing much more rewarding.”

The choir and orchestra rehearsal rooms are so visually beautifully, with their custom woodworking, and so acoustically rewarding that Duncan and other students feel excited about rehearsing there.

“You don’t hear outside noise,” Duncan says. “The quiet moments are really quiet and the loud moments are loud. The room responds to our dynamic. It feels like what you give, you get back. You can also hear across the choir really well. I can hear what the tenors and altos are doing.”

Student lounges in the BMC are “fostering this great community in the music department,” he adds.

Jeff Held, assistant dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, is thrilled to finally have the music community together in one building for the first time. Over the past 15 years, as the music program has grown significantly in numbers and quality, the music faculty remained scattered in four buildings. There wasn’t enough room for students to rehearse or receive private lessons. Worship bands and orchestras had to clear out of rooms entirely to let other ensembles practice.

“There’s new sense of professionalism we’re able to operate in, because of the atmosphere the building creates,” Held says. “I walk out of rehearsals so much more often thinking we made a lot of progress. This will allow us to grow our music program to the next level.”

Held says that in the new rehearsal halls, “musicians are focusing more on refining the intricacies of their sound.” Ten new grand pianos populate the practice rooms, in addition to specialty instruments like bassoons, trumpets of various types, tubas, oboes, string basses and more. Even better, students like Duncan don’t have to haul three trombones, weighing fifty pounds, across campus for rehearsals, because the building offers students space for instrument storage.

Generosity Triumphs

For Jaeger, who spearheaded the fundraising that made the building possible, the reality of the BMC goes back to the generosity of Mike and Caryn Borland ’85, and the legacy of Concordia’s first president, Charles Manske and wife Barbara.

“Back in 2012, the Borlands caught the vision for worship and the arts here on campus,” Jaeger says. “That commitment had been part of their lives for a long time already, but they caught it for this place and got behind it with their resources. They are humble and Christ centered and truly recognize their blessings as a gift from God. Without their catching that vision and their extreme generosity, this BMC simply would not have been possible.”

Caryn had been a student of Manske’s and respected his bold vision, his dogged determination and his total commitment to the Great Commission, says Jaeger. Their lead gift was followed by generous donations from more than 320 other donors, many of whom had never given to CUI before, and a number of whom gave more than $100,000.

“We are so thankful for our faithful donors throughout years and for the new donors and supporters that rallied behind this project,” says Jaeger. “It’s a highlight of my time at Concordia to be part of something this significant because of its boldness, its magnitude and its absolute commitment to the Great Commission and our Lutheran heritage.”

Feast for Eyes and Ears

The building boasts the finest architecture and artistry on campus. The music lobby’s 50-foot ceilings offer a sense of majesty. Christ College’s lobby is anchored by a circular stair-case custom-made of intricately-carved wood.

We are so thankful for our faithful donors… and for the new donors and supporters that rallied behind this project.

The professional music studio below ground matches any other in its finely-tuned acoustics, technology and versatility. Even the roofline was designed to suggest eagles’ wings and flight, a visual affirmation of Concordia’s mascot.

Now that he’s not wearing work boots to campus, Odle likes to sit in both wings and listen to students laughing and talking between classes. “That’s why I work in Christian education,” Odle says. “I walk through and hear teaching and see conversations and relationships happening in the lobbies, balconies and terraces, and in Alumni Plaza. I’m proud of it and blessed to have been part of it.”

Steve Mueller ’86, dean of Christ College, says the vision to bring theology, ministry, the worship life of campus and music into one area has come to pass. “We’ve created wonderful, casual spaces for people to interact with each other. It’s exactly what we wanted to happen,” Mueller says. “We’re running into each other a lot more, which makes it easier to collaborate. We built this building with spaces for people to linger in, talk with each other. The building is always hopping. The faculty are moving back and forth connecting with students. It’s really neat to see.”

Christ College now finds itself in the center of campus life, which enhances opportunities for ministry — and changes the flow of the workday.

“People had to make an effort to find us in our former location,” Mueller says. “Now my glass office wall looks down on the courtyard, so people know I’m here. People knock on the doors. It’s neat to have that kind of interaction.”

We built this building with spaces for people to linger in, talk to each other.

Tech-enabled classrooms make online classes much easier to lead. “You turn on the computer and you’re ready to talk to people in other parts of the world,” Mueller says.

In the central courtyard, called Alumni Plaza, Jacaranda trees will offer a massive display of purple in the spring and summer. Throughout the BMC are new views of campus that nobody has seen before, of French Hill, the baseball field and more.

The Borland-Manske Center “raises our visibility, and raises our reputation,” says Provost Senkbeil. “We have raised the bar for future construction on this campus because we have done things we haven’t done in buildings in the past, in terms of technology and creating places for people to study, learn and spend time. It will bring our community together in ways we have never experienced before.”

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