Alumna takes on Catt Hall Carrie Chapman Catt we would assume would be proud that Iowa State is renovating Botany Hall and renaming it after her. The famed champion of women's rights might be more pleased that the renovation's project architect is an Iowa State graduate - and a woman. For more than two years the $5 million renovation of the 101-year-old Botany Hall has dominated the professional life of Cheryl Peterson a central Iowa native who earned her bachelor of arts degree in architecture from Iowa State in 1979.
After receiving her master's degree in architecture from the University of Washington in Seattle Peterson fulfilled a goal of returning home landing a position in 1986 at the Des Moines architectural firm of Baldwin White. Catt Hall is the first Iowa State project ever awarded to Baldwin White which "meant a lot to us because so many people in the firm are Iowa State graduates" Peterson said. Peterson is representative of the growing number of women architects in the country just as Catt set an example for women Peterson said she likes the idea that she might be opening doors for women in the architectural field.
"Most women architects are young which means they arc coming into the profession" Peterson said. "There are fewer women than men who are principals in architectural firms." But in the future there will be more women in those positions she added. The Botany Hall renovation is the perfect challenge for Peterson’s specialization as an architectural preservationist. Despite the intense disrepair of the building "we didn't get discouraged" Peterson said.
"We were pretty excited about it. When a building is being restored it is because people care about it" Peterson said. "That's what makes it satisfying to do preservation work." Catt Hall which will be dedicated in October 1995 will house the administrative offices of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics and several academic programs. While the building will be greatly modernized care has been taken to preserve its architectural legacy.
The wonderful thing about Catt Hall will be the windows because they are so huge and beautiful" Peterson said. "We've told people who will move in here that they won’t have the biggest offices on campus but they will have the tallest. The ceiling heights are 12 to 13 feet." The buildings exterior is structurally sound though almost the entire interior was gutted. The new interior will feature wood panel doors wood trim and a color scheme that is "sympathetic to the historic character of the building."
The exterior in particular will reflect the effort to preserve the buildings look. Wood trim on the second third and fourth floors will be a deep brown while beige trim on the first floor will compliment the stonework. Light and dark olive tones will accentuate the front decks. "We've tried to match the building's colors from 100 years ago" Peterson said. It is not only the bricks in the building that concern Peterson. As project architect she also is overseeing installation of the Plaza of Heroines the courtyard in front of Catt Hall that will be created with bricks inscribed with the names of 2,000 women.