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Project: Flinn and Edelman Halls, The Hotchkiss School, Lakeville, CT

Architect: Robert A.M. Stern Architects, New York, NY; Robert A.M. Stern, FAIA, senior partner; Graham S. Wyatt, AIA, and Gary Brewer, AIA, partners; Gregory Shue, project manager

General Contractor: O&G Industries, Inc., Torrington, CT

Landscape Architect: Towers | Golde, Landscape Architects, New Haven, CT

LEED: Gold certification




New Design & Construction – less than 30,000 sq.ft.

Winner: Robert A.M. Stern Architects

Winsome Twosome

By Martha McDonald

A growing student body along with a desire to return to their architectural roots prompted The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, CT, to turn to Robert A.M. Stern Architects to design two new Georgian-style residence halls for the historic campus. Founded in the 1890s as a school to prepare young men for Yale University, the school has grown to almost 600 students, half men and half women. In addition, the original 65-acre campus has expanded to 545 acres overlooking the Berkshires, prompting The Nature Conservancy to call it one of the 200 "Last Great Places."

The first buildings on the campus were Georgian in style, designed by Bruce Price. Cass Gilbert, hired about the time of World War I, followed the Georgian tradition using red brick. Delano and Aldrich followed Gilbert as the campus architects, and they too followed the Georgian tradition in red brick.

"Price's vocabulary was sort of American Colonial Georgian and he executed it in yellow brick," says Robert A.M. Stern, FAIA, founder and senior partner of the firm that bears his name. "Other architects have worked there. Some, like Paul Rudolph, introduced a Modernist vocabulary. To meet the challenge of Price, Gilbert and Delano was our challenge."

The firm's solution was to design two almost-identical Georgian-style red-brick residence halls that create a quadrangle along with the existing Bissell Hall, the oldest residence hall on the campus. It was designed by Price and completed in 1894. Each of the new three-story, 24,575-gross sq.ft. buildings provides individual dormitory rooms for 30 students.

Faculty apartments with outdoor porches flank both buildings, wrapping around an outdoor courtyard at the rear of the buildings. There are two faculty apartments in each wing, four for each hall. The sturdy rectangular massing of the halls is softened by the use of dependent wings for these faculty residences. "We used dependent wings to house faculty to bring down the scale of the building," Stern explains. "We wanted to give the faculty privacy, yet allow them to be absolutely aware of what's going on in the dormitories."

Dormer windows, Classical molding executed in brick, operable double-hung windows with shutters, slate roofing with lead-coated copper built-in gutters and Classical entryways complete the Georgian picture.

Inside, the ground floor has nine dorm rooms, the second floor has 10 and the third has 11. All three floors offer study lounges and shared baths. The lounge on the ground floor opens onto a garden courtyard, which is enclosed in a low garden wall.

Quite a bit of thought was given to the organization of the residence halls. First, it was decided to build two smaller halls for 30 students each instead of a larger mega-dorm. In addition, since these halls are for older students, the school felt that individual rooms would be more appropriate than shared rooms. The school has also found that social groupings of approximately 10 students are optimal.

In addition to the social advantages, the architectural advantage of having two buildings is that it helped define an outdoor quadrangle, says Gary Brewer, AIA, partner at Robert A.M. Stern Architects. "It also provided new outdoor space."

One of the goals was to give the halls the feeling of a home. So when students enter through the front door, the first thing they see is the student lounge, which is furnished to feel like a living room, with tables, a TV and sofas. It looks out on to the outdoor terrace that is enclosed in a low garden wall. "When people walk into through the front door, they look into the 'living room,' the social heart of the building," says Graham S. Wyatt, AIA, partner at Robert A.M. Stern Architects.

"Each hall is broken down socially so you have privacy and a group identity on each floor," Brewer adds, "and an overall community of three floors. This was intentionally planned to foster a sense of community."

Extensive planning is also seen in the faculty apartments and how they relate to the residence halls. For example, each floor of the residence hall has a direct connection to one of the faculty apartments, via the apartment's study which opens on to the hallway. This allows the faculty an open view and gives students the opportunity to meet with them. "This really works very well," says Wyatt.

After the study that opens directly on to the hallway, the next room in the faculty apartment is the kitchen, which can be another social area. Beyond that, the faculty apartments are designed to provide privacy for them and their families. Each has its own private entrance, allowing access to their apartments via an elevator or stairs without going through the residence hall. Each faculty wing comprises a duplex apartment and a smaller apartment on the third floor. "The faculty apartments are like well-appointed houses, with fireplaces, living rooms, dining rooms and detail," says Brewer. "That comes from our understanding of residential design."

The buildings are described as having two fronts, rather than a front and a rear. The front of the building that faces the quadrangle is the main entry to the residence hall, while the opposite side is the main entry to the faculty apartments. Landscaping by Towers | Golde, Landscape Architects of New Haven, CT, helped achieve this goal.

"They are buildings with no backs," says Wyatt. "From a campus perspective, the terrace is the back of the building, but when you are driving by on the road and when faculty members approach with their cars, the terraced side is the front. There is a question of ambiguity between the front and the back. It is something we considered and studied very carefully. We wanted to make sure the faculty had a place to park and could easily get to the front door of their homes and not feel as though they were walking through a residence hall."

The buildings are identical except for minor differences, such as the entryways. One has a Doric pediment and the other is Ionic. "There was a desire that they have something that would differentiate them," says Wyatt. He explains that one building has a triangular pediment on the third floor over the main front entrance and a squared off entrance portico. The other has a rounded pediment on the third floor and a rounded entrance portico. The first has Doric detail and the second uses the Ionic order. "We played a bit with the Classical language, but otherwise they are identical," Wyatt points out.

"There are other subtle differences," Stern says. "The nice thing about Georgian architecture is that it is a typology of organization. You can repeat it and look for subtle differences; the detailing is different in the interpretation of the two orders."

Especially significant was the siting for the two new residence halls. "This site already had the last remaining residence hall designed by Price," Stern notes. "We wanted to be a good neighbor and to bring it into a loose quadrangular arrangement, but didn't want to do a yellow-brick building. The scale is more intimate, more residential than Price's building. With Edelman and Flinn, we made a new quadrangle grouping around this open space."

"What we have chosen to do is to angle one of the buildings so that it fits into the geometric grid of the core of the campus and one that is perpendicular to the original historic roadway," says Wyatt. "We were also conscious that the gap between the two buildings focuses your view on Bradford Mountain, to the north and east. So we relate to the historic setting of the campus and to the natural setting of the campus."

One of the outstanding features of the buildings is the brickwork, done by the Stiles and Hart Brick Co., Bridgewater, MA. All of the Classical details, including the swags, eaves, triglyphs, dentils, metopes and cymas, are expressed in brick. "Everything is there is as it should be, but it is slightly different from the normal standard of white painted-wood on a red-brick building in the Georgian tradition," says Stern. "This was done for two reasons, one is practical and the other is aesthetic."

On the practical side, brick trim requires less maintenance. "We have found that maintenance budgets are really crucial," says Stern. "The other reason is aesthetic. Making traditional molding and pediments out of the same material is a very restrained, very tailored approach, which we think is visually very interesting."

Brewer adds that the design and development of these new buildings, like any others, was a collaborative effort involving the school, the architects and the donors. In this case, he cites the exceptional dedication of the two donors, Tom Edelman and Larry Flinn. "Their direction and guidance helped us make a better project. Upgrades like the shutters and the gardens were added with their direction, their input."

The two new residence halls are the second and third buildings on the Hotchkiss campus to achieve a LEED rating, with guidance from Atelier Ten, of New York City. The first LEED-rated building on the campus was the Esther Eastman Music Center, completed in 2005. A few of the features contributing to the buildings' LEED Gold rating include HVAC efficiency exceeding ASHRAE 90.1 by 30 percent, highly insulated walls, limited window area with efficient windows, a heat recovery system, outdoor outlets for electric vehicles, a bioswale for groundwater run-off filtration, automatic dimmers for indoor lights, water-preserving plumbing fixtures, low-VOC paints and adhesives, indoor bike racks, "Energy Star"-rated appliances and low-VOC, high recycled content carpet.

"If you build a simple building in brick that is relatively well proportioned and that doesn't have oversized windows, you are on your way to sustainability," says Stern. "It gets a lot of points for just being sensible. I think we have to stop talking about LEED," he adds. "It's like saying 'did you meet the building code, is your building going stand up?' It had better stand up and it better perform. LEED has to become the expected standard," Stern notes.

"We are building not for five years, but for 100 years," adds Brewer, and donor Tom Edelman echoes that sentiment. "We very much believed in the brick Georgian architecture that we had loved when we went to Hotchkiss and we felt that Stern was the perfect firm to carry this on," Edelman states. "Larry [Lawrence Flinn] and I very much feel that you want to do a bit more on things that will flourish at the school for the next century, not just the next five years." Completed in 2007 with total construction cost at $20 million, the buildings have achieved all of the goals set out by the donors and the architects – historic design, relevancy to the campus, energy efficiency and longevity. Stern and his colleagues now join a list of noted architects who have made their mark on this historic campus.



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