Belmont Day School Barn
Category: Design excellence
As one of the critical elements of the Belmont Day School’s master plan, the Massachusetts private school’s new barn provides ample space for its evolving STEAM and athletics programs. More than 27,000 square feet of space is divided between two stitched-together buildings: an engineered steel fieldhouse containing two dual-use basketball and volleyball courts and a stick-built steel classroom headhouse. Working in concert, the two programs provide the right combination of big and small spaces that foster collaboration among the school’s K–8 student population.
"This design showcases inventiveness in what can be achieved by marrying a cost-effective pre-engineered building with customized classrooms that blend seamlessly to create a thoughtful, clean, and elegant project.”- Jury comment
The barn negotiates two discrete structural systems, with the athletic fieldhouse spanning over the educational headhouse. Both programs embrace the common language of corrugated metal facades. A three-classroom bar establishes the rhythm and depth for five similar classrooms on two floors of the headhouse, both of which are flanked by support spaces. Inside, each classroom opens onto a large flexible space that softens the line between focused learning and gym activity. Generous in size, the areas also accommodate larger gatherings and serve as gallery space.
“This design showcases inventiveness in what can be achieved by marrying a cost-effective pre-engineered building with customized classrooms that blend seamlessly to create a thoughtful, clean, and elegant project,” said the jury. “Interstitial spaces between the two building types act as a buffer to create a makerspace while still providing transparency and visual connections to play and learning.”
Custom insertions complement the scale and raw character of the barn, tailoring the space for a wide array of teaching and learning styles. Its exposed structure and mechanical equipment serve as teaching tools and provide opportunities for student discovery. Based on teacher feedback, the team implemented a playful composition of window openings and custom millwork that lends each classroom its unique identity.
“Interstitial spaces between the two building types act as a buffer to create a makerspace while still providing transparency and visual connections to play and learning.”- Jury comment
In the fieldhouse, large glass doors directly connect to the surrounding landscape and, with operable clerestory windows, provide passive cooling. Its rooftop photovoltaic panels generate a portion of the barn’s power. The athletics spaces include two full-sized basketball courts that can be converted quickly for volleyball, an approach that has appreciably expanded the school’s athletic programs. In addition to students, they regularly welcome recreational leagues in the evenings and on weekends.
Belmont Day School has significantly grown since its founding in a one-room schoolhouse two centuries ago. Its existing facility has been transformed into a charming maze of later additions, but its 2014 plan dictated the need for new construction. The barn carefully balances the school's historical sense of intimacy and interaction while affording it some much-needed breathing room.