It's of the utmost importance for architect Lee Berman '07 to know exactly how a space will be used before he even commences a design. He typically relies solely on his clients to outline their intended uses, but he was able to draw from his own experiences while drafting the Center for the Arts — particularly its theater.
"It made a difference during the design process to mentally go back to school meetings, concerts, student-written plays and musicals and remember what it felt like to be a part of those activities — from the perspective of being in the audience and on the stage," said Berman, who works for Ann Beha Architects. "What did I cherish? The communal feeling when everyone gathered in the space. What did I not like? Sitting in the alleys during most school meetings. The new main theater will be able to transform from a bright, open and lively community hall that can host the entire Brooks community into an intimate teaching theater, where students can comfortably learn and perform — many for the first time. This is an important duality of Brooks that the theater's design seeks to capture: First as a vibrant and high-energy community space, but balanced, second, with providing a safe place for students to grow. The theater will certainly be one of the most exemplar spaces on campus, but its true uniqueness will be in how it models what Brooks is all about."
Berman is one of three alumni — in addition to Consigli Construction Vice President of Project Services Todd McCabe '89, P'15 and Consigli Construction Assistant Project Manager Joe Napolitano '09 — and one current student intern — Jordan Price '19 — professionally working on the new Center for the Arts. For all involved, the project is personal; they implicitly understand the importance of the project and are proud to be a part of it.
"While attending my 10-year reunion last May, I felt the excitement surrounding the Center for the Arts — seeing my old classmates' eyes light up as they described it as 'the building they wish they had' and one that will equal Brooks' longstanding commitment to the arts," Berman said. "Architects have pride in their work, but they infrequently are able to also gain that personal understanding as to how their work will affect others. When you work on a campus that you love, for an institution that you want the best for, designing the dream building you wish you had, it's hard for it not to all be pretty special."
Napolitano is on campus daily, serving as the assistant project manager for the building's current construction phase. He commenced his professional relationship with Consigli back in 2008 through Brooks' Students on the Forefront of Science program, interning for the company during the summer months when they were building the school's current Science Center.
"Being an alumn does put myself in a unique position on this project. Knowing how the school operates is important and has proved to be valuable when planning logistically for what we want to accomplish inside the site fence," Napolitano said. "I hope students and fellow alums will find the finished space as a major upgrade for the arts department. Furthermore, I hope that new memories will be formed and cherished at all events, plays, meetings, classes and performances that will be held starting in the fall of 2018. I'm already excited to come back for my next reunion to hear the feedback."
Napolitano's 2008 internship set precedence for current students to take an official role in the construction of a Brooks building. Following in his footsteps during summer 2014, when Consigli was renovating the Chapel, were Brooks operations intern Zack McCabe '15 and Consigli project engineer intern David Berroa '13. Currently, Jordan Price '19 is interning six hours a week for Consigli on the Center for the Arts project.
Todd McCabe '89, P'15 has been instrumental in the creation of the Center for the Arts, just as he was for the construction of the Science Center and the Chapel renovation.
"I love Brooks and what it has provided for me, my brothers and my son: A remarkable academic and life education that better prepared us all for the next phases of our lives. As an alum, it's really fulfilling to be part of recreating the campus and building remarkable buildings that will provide the students of today and tomorrow that same opportunity," McCabe said. "I hope that this amazing Center for the Arts is one that everyone can take pride in. I also hope that once completed, and for many years to come, this arts building and the programs held within will help deliver on the promise of seeking to provide the most meaningful and well-rounded educational experience Brooks students will have in their lives."
McCabe called the project a "complex puzzle," with deep excavations, large concrete walls and complex steel configurations all happening right in the heart of campus. Akin to Berman's sentiment, McCabe noted that his understanding of how Brooks operates offered Consigli a distinct advantage in its planning and communication process.
While there were some construction setbacks during the summer, the Brooks community is now seeing the building take shape, as crews are finishing the steel and concrete floors and moving into the exterior envelope of the building. McCabe, along with Napolitano, is crossing his fingers for an unseasonably dry and warm winter, which will help crew continue their good pace and complete the building by the close of 2018.
"The building is designed to change the way the entire Brooks campus interacts with the arts on daily basis and put the arts on display," Berman concluded. "As an alumnus, I take great pride that this building will help to further integrate and expand Brooks' traditional commitment to the arts. In ambition alone, the Center for the Arts is a transformative project for Brooks. I think the facility's impact will go well beyond its location and role as a home for the arts and will contribute to redefining the experience of going to Brooks."
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