SCUP/AIA-CAE Excellence in Architecture for a New Building, Honor Award
Bennington College for the Student Center, with Taylor & Burns Architects; also Reed Hildebrand Associates Inc.; The Collaborative Engineers; Acentech; Otter Creek Engineers, Inc.; Ricca/Newmark Design
photo by Anton Grassl
The Bennington College Student Center, a former parking lot, is located on the west edge of Commons Lawn, the central quadrangle of the residential campus. It combines the café, pub, and student lounge into a single, flexible, social space.
The charge was to create a Big Room for student social and performance uses; expand the café to increase capacity and life safety; accommodate organized student activities; create a new dining hall and kitchen for daily food service; connect existing buildings into a vibrant social center on the site of a parking lot; improve definition of the campus core while pushing cars to the campus edge.
Opportunities were to advance the institutional mission and focus on student-centered rather than instruction-centered education; contribute to Bennington’s tradition of innovation, especially in campus architecture; support an educational philosophy fostering engaged, self-directed students who plan their own curriculum and mix curricular and extracurricular activity, to “learn by doing.”
The challenging construction budget of $3.5 million dictated simplicity and an efficient footprint and building envelope.
An early strategy, connecting the new structure to the café so that operations continued through construction, led to the concept of an indoor-outdoor brick terrace between the buildings. This expanded outdoor capacity with three-season usable pavement, and expanded the social space.
The new student center, a fusion work, translates and renews campus architecture and landscape created over time by successive designers.
The student center site development organizes a two-acre sector into a new sub-quad and energizes the commons lawn. It also resolves a campus cross-axis terminating opposite at Crossett Library.
The Big Room is a flexible open space that supports student and campus activities including social and academic gatherings; food service; readings and recitals; dance parties; demountable stage for corner or thrust formats; theatrical sound and light control booth; green room; and adjustable acoustics and daylight with motorized curtain.
The jury said, “ . . . very elegant courtyard . . . planning is significant portion of architecture and vice versa . . . fits nicely in campus plan . . .”
Project Team: Bennington College with Taylor & Burns Architects; also Reed Hilderbrand Associates Inc.; The Collaborative Engineers; Acentech; Otter Creek Engineers, Inc.; Ricca/Newmark Design