School, a boarding school
and working farm, invited us to build a performing arts center amid its hilltop
collection of quaint clapboard houses and a red barn. How we arrived at a contemporary building
with folded roofs, bold forms, vibrant interior colors and high marks for
environmental sensitivity is a story about the importance of
consensus-building. Adding considerable complexity to the project was the large
group of trustees, faculty and students who all wanted a say in the building’s
design and who had strong emotional ties to the campus.
Our design process was highly interactive with the Putney
group; we frequently produced models and designs and didn’t move forward until
we were unified in purpose. A key agreement early on was that the building
should look to the future. Scale was a consideration, too: The large footprint
required for performance and exhibition space could have easily dwarfed the
surrounding buildings. With this in mind, we chose a site that preserved the
campus’ open spaces and put the building snug against a wooded hill. As the
design developed, we broke down the mass of the building to reduce the overall
scale and impact. By introducing a series of folds in the roof, we created openings
for natural light and a feeling of movement that expresses the activity within.
Inside, bold colors heighten the experience of performance spaces; gallery
walls can be moved to reconfigure exhibition space and views reconnect visitors
to the landscape.