Text by John Morris Dixon, FAIA
In this cluster of modestly scaled structures, Bennington students, faculty, and “professionals on the front lines of public action” gather to confront the world’s pressing problems. The center’s program is divided among three buildings: the symposium building, a residence hall for fellows and visitors, and a flexible multi-use space known as the Lens. The three are sited around a central terrace and are linked to the rest of the campus via walkways.
The main building contains the symposium room, with its stepped floor and curved seating to facilitate dialogue. Supporting spaces include classrooms, offices, meetings rooms, a faculty lounge, and student common areas. Glazed walls line a central court, which is open to the sky.
The three live–work apartments are similar in character but differ in size, layout, views, and furnishings. The single room in the smallest building, the Lens, is designed for contemplation, performance, and debate. A hand crank rolls back a portal in the roof to reveal the sky, hence the name of the structure.
All three buildings are constructed of steel with block infill and are clad in 3-inch-thick marble panels, collected by a Vermont stone yard from quarries that had previously shut down. Each marble façade was laid out on a warehouse floor before installation to ensure that the varied colors and sizes generated a desirable pattern.
Project: Center for the Advancement of Public Action, Bennington, Vt.
Client: Bennington College
Architect of Record: Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners, New York . Tod Williams, FAIA, Billie Tsien, AIA (partners-in-charge/designers); Susan Son (project architect); David Moses, AIA (assistant project architect); Erin Putalik, Evan Ripley, William Vincent, Matthew Montry, Christina Chang (project team)
Contractor: Daniel O’Connell’s Sons
Structural Engineer: Severud Associates
M/E/P Engineer: Ambrosino, DePinto & Schmieder
Civil Engineer: Otter Creek Engineering
Landscape Architects: Reed Hilderbrand Associates
Lighting Designer: Tillotson Design Associates
Acoustic, A/V, Telecom Consultant: Acoustic Dimensions
Graphics Consultant: Roll Barresi & Associates
Roof Hatch Consultant: Turner Exhibits
Fountain Consultant: Dan Euser Waterarchitecture
Stone Consultant: Walker Zanger
Marble Supplier: Gawt Marble & Granite
Granite Supplier: Trowel Trades Supply
Millwork: Descience Laboratories
Size: 17,861 gross square feet