Oakland University
Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Oakland alum leads architectural firm in designing carillon tower

Standing in the heart of the Oakland University campus, alumna Delia Rodi looks out over the nearly completed Elliott Tower with nostalgia.

“If it wasn’t for Oakland University, I would not be who I am today,” said Rodi, CEO of Niagara Murano. “I was so fortunate that everywhere I went, I always found good, supportive people. This place is like home.”

Delia graduated from the University in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science in engineering. She is among a group of highly skilled designers at Niagara Murano who have master planned the site and led the design of this project through to construction completion. 
Standing in the heart of the Oakland University campus, alumna Delia Rodi looks out over the nearly completed Elliott Tower with nostalgia.

After meeting with the tower benefactors, Hugh and Nancy Elliott, as well as with OU Facilities Management personnel, Niagara Murano assembled and orchestrated the very best team of renowned specialty consultants in the country, to ensure a memorable and timeless design for this new heart and soul of the University.

“We’re really detailed to make sure everything comes together,” Delia said. “We have an extraordinary group of staff and consultants working on this project. It was a very unique opportunity to create a multisensory and memorable overall experience to delight students, faculty, alumni, parents, children and the community for years to come.”

Niagara Murano was selected as the architectural firm for the $6.5-million project, which consists of a 151-foot high carillon and clock tower, performance water feature and landscaped plaza. The vast landscaped plaza stretches nearly 300 feet by 300 feet and is nestled between the Oakland Center, O’Dowd Hall and Kresge Library.

Carillon bells

The Verdin Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, established in 1842, worked closely with their partners the Royal Bellfounders Petit & Fritsen, based in Aarle-Rixtel, Netherlands, to produce these prestigious 49 bells that would reside within the tower. The largest of the bells weighs 5,000 pounds and is five feet in diameter, inscribed with the quote "The true net worth of a person is what he does for others."

“Niagara Murano strategized with Verdin to design the optimal layout, placement and sound of the bells for this particular tower and University,” Rodi said.

The carillon bells' resounding melodies will be heard throughout Oakland’s campus and the surrounding community. They will have a regular live playing schedule and hourly chimes. The traditional hand-action instrument provides a complete tonal range for carillonneurs to play any musical composition.

Along with the bells, The Verdin Company also designed the clock components and is the nation’s leading bell and clock manufacturer with more than 50,000 installations throughout the world.

Niagara Murano specifically designed the exterior of the bell chamber with carved limestone double arches centered on a classical column to frame a view from the plaza of the impressive bronze carillon. The plaza’s water feature can respond to the music from the bells to give a physical expression of the music being played.

Dramatic features

The main elements of the carillon project are the carillon tower and plinth with a four-sided clock at the top, a plaza with hardscape, seating, landscaping, lighting and an internally lit, computerized water feature. The exterior of the tower is composed of brick and Indiana limestone with a limestone and granite base that features four grand archways. Each of the archways reaches 24 feet high and allows students to pass through and meet under the vaulted plaster ceiling of the tower.

A custom pendant light hangs inside the archways, brilliantly illuminating the tower plinth and the vaulted ceiling and beckoning one in. The water feature is designed to create a sense of inspiration and delight, with a hint of drama incorporated through a variety of computer choreographed water dances that are intended to invite interaction with students.

To design such a unique water feature, Niagara Murano collaborated with WET Design of California, who has completed numerous major projects around the world, including The Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas, the Revson Fountain at Lincoln Center and the Detroit Metro Airport Fountain in Michigan.

Placed atop the tower is a 26-foot high octagonal pyramid top made of crystal titanium created to withstand time, the elements and to proudly display the gold school color of Oakland University. To save cost and promote safety, Niagara Murano, Oakland University project manager John Harmala, and the general contractor had to strategically design for the 20,000-pound structure to be fabricated on the ground and then hoisted into place at the top of the tower, 125 feet in the air. The structure ascended to the top of the building in early spring, forever changing the University’s skyline.

A meaningful endeavor

“This project is so special,” Rodi said. “It’s a privilege to be a part of it. As always, everyone at OU has been wonderful to work with, from the OU Facilities department, to the Elliotts, who are such gracious donors.”

While Delia was a student at Oakland, she devoted her time to engineering and being engaged with the OU community. She was a member of the National Society for Professional Engineers, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Italian Association and the Society for Women Engineers, expanding her knowledge of the profession and striving to succeed.

“Looking at the Elliott Tower, I think of a world-class university with extraordinary talent,” Rodi said. “Being able to bring my knowledge back to OU to help create this landmark tower and plaza is very dear to my heart.”

Oakland University will hold a dedication ceremony for the Elliott Tower from 3:30-6 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 19.
Delia Rodi graduated in 1992 with a bachelor of science in engineering. She is among a group of skilled designers who have master planned the Elliott Tower site and lead the design of this project thru to completion.

Created by Kathleen Buchanan (kabuchan@oakland.edu) on Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Modified by Kathleen Buchanan (kabuchan@oakland.edu) on Friday, September 19, 2014
Article Start Date: Wednesday, September 17, 2014