Bryn Athyn College: ANC Dining Center

Project Description

Spillman Farmer Architects worked with Bryn Athyn and the Academy of the New Church to transform their dining center to increase functionality, reflect the grace and dignity of the original building, and align with the mission and vision of the institution.

Awards

  • Award of Excellence – AIA Eastern Pennsylvania, 2008

Project Details

  • Client Bryn Athyn College / Academy of the New Church
  • Location Bryn Athyn, PA View map
  • Use Dining
  • Sq. ft. 16,400
  • Completed 2008

Bryn Athyn College and Academy of the New Church’s Dining Hall was originally constructed in the 1920s. Its 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.

The addition also relocated the building’s entrance and required that students walk around the front (facing the campus quadrangle)…

Bryn Athyn College and Academy of the New Church’s Dining Hall was originally constructed in the 1920s. Its 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.

The addition also relocated the building’s entrance and required that students walk around the front (facing the campus quadrangle) to the back, where the new main entrance now shared space with the service entrance. Over the years, this reconfiguration 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. In meeting this challenge, the team understood that the building, modest in size and utilitarian in function, was a part of a long philosophical and architectural history of the New Church in America.

The Academy of the New Church, and its sister institution Bryn Athyn College, strive to be “an intellectual center for all who desire to pursue a higher education in the liberal arts and sciences, enriched and structured by the Old and New Testaments and the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg.”. For the Dining Hall renovation, the architect’s approach was to look to architectural precedents and ensure that the building reflected the broader values of the Church of the New Jerusalem.

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. This respect is apparent in the roof lines, which complement but give way to the historic originals.

The new additions are not imposed upon but lightly touch the original, with a gentle glass wall that joins old to new. Inside, Spillman Farmer’s design 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.

Award Award of Excellence – AIA Eastern Pennsylvania, 2008

Project Bryn Athyn College: ANC Dining Center

Testimonial

Title AIA Eastern PA Jury

An elegant merger of old and new in which buildings from two very different time periods are wedded with consummate design skill. The interiors are beautifully detailed, and the steel and wood are poetically combined with tectonic clarity and architectural grace.

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