Norwich Students’ Design/Build Outdoor Classroom Earns AIA New England Award

Norwich Students’ Design/Build Outdoor Classroom Earns AIA New England Award

A Norwich University design/build project, an outdoor classroom produced in collaboration with the classroom’s recipients—Northfield High School students—has been recognized with a Citation Award for Excellence in Architecture by American Institute of Architects (AIA) New England Region.

The building, affectionately named ‘The Dutch Angle,’ is approximately 24 feet square by 18 feet tall at its highest and uses a sophisticated cable and turnbuckle-tensioned king-post beam to span the entire 24 feet length. The project engaged Norwich students in architecture, civil engineering and construction management programs.

AIA New England announced on Oct. 20 that the Norwich project earned a citation among seven Honor Awards, six Merit Awards, and twelve Citation Awards out of 275 total entries submitted for consideration.

“This fresh air classroom is a great example of how a small but thoughtful design intervention, conceived with community input and built with an attention to craft, can have a big impact on the people who use it,” Dean of the College of Professional Schools Aron Temkin said. “It is wonderful to see this project receive broader recognition.”

In January 2015, students from the Northfield High School Students Taking Alternative Routes (STAR) program met with students from the School of Architecture + Art’s 802-Lab to discuss the design and construction of an outdoor classroom in the 135-acre woodland adjacent to the Garvey Hill Soccer Field in Northfield. From the outset the students designed this work to be gentle on the landscape. By making sure that all of the pieces and components could be transported without heavy machinery, the natural qualities of the site were preserved even during the construction process.

Jury comments included: “We commend this project based on the exemplary fact that it brought together three generations of architects together: past students (professionals), current students and future students. This project proposes an innovative model for engaging with the emerging architectural community which we appreciate.”

The superstructure was entirely pre-fabricated on the Norwich campus and then trucked to the Garvey Hill Soccer Field, where it was unloaded and hand-carried across the soccer field and into the forest. It is estimated that together the students carried about four tons of material and tools into the woods to construct the Dutch Angle Classroom.

The STAR program offers an academic setting for Northfield High School students looking for a more experiential classroom setting. The STAR Program seeks to establish relevance and purpose in students’ education by facilitating fundamental bush-craft skills like making fire through friction, learning how to identify wild edibles, and how to build primitive shelters from woodland debris.

Read more about the design/build project here:

Photo at top by John W. Hession