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