Commissioned by: The Putney School
Scope: 20,000 square feet; 300-seat auditorium with flexible seating and staging; dance studio with basket-weave floor; orchestra rehearsal rooms; flexible exhibition space: walls move and can create lockable gallery space; planted sedum roof; LEED Silver.
The Putney 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.
Materials: Stained concrete floors; glass; aluminum windows; cedar siding; Sarnafil roofing; steel; stainless steel; beech paneling; homasote panels; acoustical plaster.
American Institute of Architects New England, Award for Design Excellence
General Contractor: DEW Construction Corp.
Civil Engineer: Heindel & Noyes
Structural Engineer: RSE Associates, Inc.
Mechanical & Plumbing Engineer: Kohler & Lewis
Acoustical Consultant: Acentech Inc.
Code Consultant: R.W. Sullivan Engineering
Specification Writer: Lund Associates
Photographers: John Edward Linden Photography; Greg Premru Photography