Text by Katie Gerfen
Milton Academy’s history as a premier college preparatory school dates back to 1798, making it older than the battery, the electric light bulb, and the state of Ohio; in fact, the school predates all but 16 U.S. states. But part of celebrating and fostering such a rich history is knowing when to embrace change, whether it’s adopting a new motto, changing curricula, or hiring William Rawn, FAIA’s Boston-based firm to update your aging science facilities.
For years, the labs on this bucolic campus had been relegated to windowless, bunker-like buildings on the periphery. Hiring Rawn to design a new freestanding structure in the middle of campus meant embracing the firm’s well-established expertise in creating spaces that knit a well-appointed connective fabric between surrounding historic and contemporary structures. To check the firm’s bona fides, the school needed to look no further than such celebrated projects as the Cambridge Public Library or the Berklee College of Music, in nearby downtown Boston.
At Milton, Rawn created an antidote to the bunker-like lab facilities: a three-story curtainwall that admits daylight and glass-walled classrooms along curving walkways that promote views between discipline areas and encourage collaboration. An added benefit is that the building itself serves as laboratory, with a dashboard that displays real-time energy and water use, as well as educational information on other sustainable features, including bioswales, a green roof, and solar panels. The new building improves classroom and learning conditions and brings new life to an institution that understands celebrating a long legacy means staying ahead of the curve.
Project: Pritzker Science Center, Milton, Mass.
Client/Owner: Milton Academy
Architect: William Rawn Associates, Architects, Boston . William L. Rawn, FAIA, Douglas C. Johnston, FAIA (principals for design); Samuel M. Lasky, AIA (associate principal for design); Andrew Jonic, AIA (project architect); Mark Scott, AIA
Interior Designer: Lab [3.2]
Structural Engineer: LeMessurier
Civil/M/E/P/FP Engineer: Rist-Frost-Shumway Engineering
Geotechnical Engineer: McPhail Associates
Landscape Consultant: Stephen Stimson Associates
Lighting Consultant: Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design
Acoustical Consultant: Acentech
Code Consultant: R.W. Sullivan Engineering
Cost Estimator: Faithful+Gould
Exterior Envelope Consultant: Simpson Gumpertz & Heger
General Contractor: Shawmut Design and Construction
Size: 40,000 gross square feet
This article appeared in the May 2016 issue of ARCHITECT magazine.
Read all of ARCHITECT's coverage of the 2016 AIA Honor Awards.
Project DescriptionFROM THE AIA:
Making science visible was the guiding principle of this project at a two-centuries-old prep school in Massachusetts. After years in a series of remote, fortress-like buildings, the study of science at Milton Academy would move into a place that was abundantly open, both to the outside and from space to space within the building.
The interiors choices fostering that openness include floor-to-ceiling glass walls and garage door-style openings between classrooms. A curving main corridor, two stories high with views through transparent walls into classrooms and labs, signals the collaborative nature of science learning and experimentation.
Classrooms are furnished with a cluster of lab benches for scientific work, and with a large central table for seminar-style discussions. The arrangement is meant to break down the isolation of a traditional science classroom, where lab benches line the perimeter and separate students from one another.
As befits a school science building, the structure is itself a teaching tool, outfitted with a dashboard that displays real-time energy- and water-usage data, as well as explanatory signage for the sustainable strategies that include a green roof, a solar array and a storm water filtration swale.