Text description provided by the architects. Beaver Country Day School is an independent school for grades 6-12 near Boston that boasts an innovative pedagogy based on student-centered design. A new Research + Design facility was commissioned to reflect the ambition of the faculty and students to expand the nature of their school. The project involved the transformation of an existing library and a new addition that created a connected campus, placing the new R+D Center at the heart of it.
Across five structures built over the span of 90 years, there was an 8-foot elevation difference from adjacent floor levels, requiring an extensive ramp system to adjoin the levels. Thus, the design includes a three-story connecting “Bridge” that sponsors a variety of student-centered spaces: study carrels, presentation spaces, and lounge areas. One of the primary considerations was the transformation of Beaver’s existing library. The existing 1960’s era concrete waffle slab building was strategically pared down to the floor slab and structural columns.
This allowed for an expansion of the building to the north with a sloping glass curtain wall as well as a new floor of classrooms added to the existing roof. The new 3-floor structure was then opened through a series of double-height spaces to link all levels visually, reinforcing the school’s pedagogy of open collaborative spaces. At the main level, the traditional stacks of the existing library were rethought and expanded to reach into the rest of the school, providing collaborative workspaces. This “Research Level” is an open workspace that creates optimal opportunities for students and teachers to work together or independently.
At the ground level, the main consideration was the creation of a flexible design lab. Beaver students use technology that is no different from that used by professionals with frequent upgrades. As a result, the “Design Level” is primarily an open workshop with movable systems and equipment storage for ultimate reconfiguration based on student needs. The new 3rd-floor level is an addition of new classroom space for the school. Each classroom is equipped with furniture and technology to allow for flexible teaching and independent study with breakout spaces in the main corridor.
The newly enclosed courtyard is an expansion of the Design Level that provides students with multiple ways to utilize the space; an opportunity for fresh air, an outdoor space to work and experiment, a spot to socialize, an outdoor classroom, and a place for the school to host large events. The courtyard is wrapped with a phenolic panel rain screen façade on all 4 interior walls, unifying the old and the new.