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ISSUE 118 VOL 8 PUBLISHED 11/12/2004

Presidential suites house organic influence

By Brenna Bray
Staff Writer


Friday, November 12, 2004

When I met President Thomforde at an ice cream social this year, he was seeking student opinion on his houses new paint job. I had been oblivious to the new exterior but Thomforde explained that the bold color scheme was designed to resemble Norwegian fishing and farming villages. I met with President Thomforde at his crib to discuss the houses new color scheme and receive a presidential tour. As it turns out, the eye-catching colors were not Thomfordes idea.

Assistant Professor of art and art history Steve Edwins and Director of Facilities and Special Assistant to the President Pete Sandberg, proposed the re-painting project in an annual meeting on project funding last year. Thomforde easily agreed, requesting only that they not do beige again.

In April, Edwins and Sandburg presented Thomforde with their plans for the new color scheme. They said the themes symbolism honors St. Olafs Norwegian heritage.

Structurally, the presidents house consists of three major pieces  two block-like wings with a wedge-block piece set in the middle. The color scheme accentuates the different parts of the house and follows the organic theme that Edward Sovik established. Sovik, the original architect, also designed Larson, Mohn and parts of the library and music hall. The two wings are coated in dark red. The middle piece is dark blue on the north side (facing St. Olaf Avenue) and an Ole gold on the south side.

Inside the house, the entryway flows into the communal parlor and dining room in the west wing. The study, living, laundry and guest rooms are on the east side of the house on the ground floor. Behind the entryway, the kitchen creates a walkway between the guest dining room and the family living room.

The Japanese fence and garden in front of the house do not follow the Norwegian scheme, but they help brighten the houses grounds. Grounds Manager James Fisher dug up the lilac trees which used to stand in front of the presidents house and planted them around campus. The fence replaced some shrubbery, which hid three air conditioning units.

Thomforde moved into the presidents house in January 2001 upon his presidential inauguration at St. Olaf. After President Edwards left in November, a crew of St. Olaf carpenters replaced appliances and tended to interior improvements. In rooms like the parlor, Persian rugs pull everything together. They complement classic pieces like the Lenore Swenson Schmidt piano and soften the textured lines of the wooden ceilings and floors.

Thomforde mixes his own belongings with those of the school, creating a harmony between personal and professional existence. The house is tastefully decorated with classic beauty and understated elegance.

Because the school of St. Olaf maintains the presidents house, it remains open to college use. The president receives free residence in the house as professional compensation but he is obliged (and happy) to open his doors to campus groups that request invitations.





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