As soon as they arrived on campus for the start of the new school year, Brooks School students got a treat: opened doors on the newly renovated student center.
"It's open, bright and is an engaging place to be, with a variety of study and collaborative spaces," said Angela Juliano, senior associate principal at CUBE 3 Studio, the Lawrence, Mass.-based architecture firm that designed the plans to transform the space beneath Wilder Dining Hall. The reconfigured student center will be a "destination," she added. "This will be a place students will want to meet friends and stay a while."
For more on the activities on campus, and to read about boarding at Brooks, visit our Living at Brooks page.
Work began on the renovation shortly after students departed Brooks for the summer and lasted nearly seven weeks. Methuen, Mass., general contractor Rick Fluet estimates that there were up to 20 people involved in the project, which involved taking away as many things from the former space as were added in.
"Several walls were either removed or modified giving the students a more open feeling," said Fluet. Gone too is the outdated radio station and doored-off nooks that went largely unused. "There are now five TVs, a new ping pong table, benches, laptop areas and a renovated kitchen," he added.
(The kitchen will supply the "Snack Shack" area, opening September 10, with muffins, cookies, ice cream and weekend goodies -- including sweet potato fries, chicken fingers and mozzarella sticks – otherwise unavailable during hours when the dining hall is closed).
Other additions? New 23-foot benches, new 48 inch counters, 980 feet of tile flooring, 640 feet of new carpet and fresh new color on the walls and ceiling (which required about 55 gallons of paint!).
"It's looking so great," said architect Juliano, calling the games and "variety of seating and gathering spaces," highlights of the new space. Head of School John Packard P'18, P'21, meanwhile, swears that he loves each and every part of the renovated center.
"I think I had high expectations, and the renovation exceeded them — particularly in terms of the size of the space without walls in the way and in the amount of light that can get in there now, both of which were pleasant surprises," he said. "There's an opportunity to do a range of things in there today: have a chat with friends, watch TV, play games, relax, have a snack. It's delivered on all that we'd hoped for and more."
Learn more about Brooks' close-knit community in a news story about our student-, faculty- and staff-wide summer reading program: All-Community Read Makes Us a "Stronger School."
The former student center was built in 2002. "We didn't have any student center at all prior to the construction of the dining hall," Packard recalled. "And that happened at a time when there were still radio shows [on campus] and there was programmatic use for that space. But over time, we realized that it had become too choppy of an area. It had become inaccessible and uninviting."
In his August 16 e-letter to parents, the Head of School explained that, "We have needed a better causal gathering space for some time." Packard called the designs for renovation, "a dramatic upgrade on what was a tired and inefficient student center."
The fact that Brooks is already in the middle of a massive construction project to create campus' new Center for the Arts (affectionately referred to as "Brooks' Big Dig") adjacent to the student center wasn't actually a deterrent to moving forward with renovation at all. "It had been on the docket and we wanted to get to it," said Packard. "Great giving in that direction gave us [the opportunity]." Plus, during a year enduring so much construction, he added: "It's nice to have a new space completed."
Now, he's just crossing his fingers that the old "if you build it, they will come" adage holds true at 1160 Great Pond Road. "I hope that it's a welcoming space for boarding and day students alike; for day students to have additional space while waiting for parents and for the whole school community to use it for student meetings," he said. "It's multipurpose and I hope that it just draws students to it – even more so once the Center for the Arts is complete. It's really, really exciting."
To learn about how Brooks School students enjoy their off days with activities on- or off-campus, visit the Weekends Are For Fun page.
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