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Bryn Athyn, PA | 16,400 SF

The Academy of the New Church’s Dining Hall was originally constructed in 1909. This 7200 SF building’s architecture reveals the vernacular of the early 20th Century Philadelphia suburbs in which it is located, from its fieldstone walls to its dormer windows to its pitched roofs. However, a stark 1960s addition overpowered the elegance of the original and over the years, proved to be a very unsatisfying solution. To remedy it, the client asked Spillman Farmer Architects to offer a new vision that would realize the potential within the building. The design team worked closely with the client to help articulate the goals of the project: reconfigure the building to make it more functional and, more importantly, to give it a grace and dignity in keeping with the mission and vision of the institution, the Academy of the New Church.

The process was one of both subtraction and addition. First, the 1960s addition and subsequent renovations were removed. The original building, whose interior architectural details had been obliterated over the years, was gutted to allow for new interior space configuration and details that would speak to the simplicity and charm of the original architecture. Once the vintage addition was removed, two flanking pavilions were constructed on the original front of the building, facing the campus quadrangle and restoring the natural and intuitive main entrance to the structure. In the pavilions, the architecture mimics the details of the original building, with local field stone and red shingled roofs, but it does not try to compete with the original.

Inside, the renovation respects the historic details of the original building and carries forward the design principles demonstrated in the arts and crafts movement. For example, the rough cut stone and heavy timber trusses preserve and emphasize the natural qualities of their materials. The structure and construction of the building is exposed. Throughout, simple forms and minimal adornment are used. The fireplace recognizes and connects to the larger architectural tradition of which the New Church has played a part.