Bryn Athyn, PA | 31,500 SF
Bryn Athyn College is a unique institution established to offer a program of higher education in the liberal arts grounded in the teachings of the New Church (also called the General Church of the New Jerusalem). The college’s vision for this project, an addition to an existing academic building, was the creation of a campus living room where current students could gather and visitors could be welcomed into the heart of the community. The architects’ goals were to not only achieve this vision but also create a distinct spirit of place befitting the larger spiritual and architectural context of Bryn Athyn College and the New Church.
The Brickman Center is a two-story building nestled into the natural grade of the landscape that appears, when approached from the west, to be a single story. The plan is organized in an L shape, with one side abutting the existing building (on the east) and the other side extending out (on the north). The primary volumes within the building are the campus Great Room on the first level and the two-story height dining room/multipurpose hall on the lower level. The Great Room is distinguished by heavy timber framing whose structural connections (metal tie and sag rods) are exposed in the arts and crafts spirit. A central stone and brick fireplace hearth is flanked by large windows that provide views down into the dining hall located on the lower level of the building. Here, a second fireplace and wood details provide warmth to the expansive multipurpose space. The upper level also supports office and administrative space for the President and Admissions staff while the lower level provides back-of-house and kitchen equipment to serve the building.
The exterior features rubble stone with brick appointments and a slate roof. The building is bold in form but utterly human in scale and its careful detailing invites one to step forward in order to take a closer look at many features. For example, there are three distinct entrances purposefully designed to convey a subtle hierarchy of experience. For example, the primary entrance, used by visitors, staff, and students alike, is characterized by a dramatic structural brick arch, handcrafted wooden doors, and a handcrafted rose window centered above. In the spirit of the Arts and Crafts Movement, the doors and window were locally hand crafted (by a member of the Church); in the spirit of New Church theology, their design is rich with symbolism. On the west side of the building, a colonnade reaches out to the main public vehicular thoroughfare. Punctuated by a graceful tower, it is a welcoming handshake for visitors and provides graceful covered and accessible passage from the main street to the Center. It is also a gesture to the historic campus and treasured Cathedral located further west.
“…[T]hank you for the part you played in re-shaping our campus and enhancing our day-to-day life at the College. We are grateful for the contributions you made to our lives, our vision, and our mission. … The beauty of the buildings and the sense of timelessness of the campus environment testify to the hours of labor that you gave in making it so. We can never thank you enough. … Your good work has enhanced our work.”Bryn Athyn College President