Inspiration and Education

Inspiration + Education

One of the project goals was for the R.W. Kern Center to be a place of learning and interaction, for all its users to understand the building’s function, values, and purpose, and to be inspired by its lessons. This helped drive the incorporation of building systems into public features. For example, instead of installing a purely functional, hidden greywater system, the team chose to employ indoor planters so that users could engage with the water filtration process and enjoy living plants in the building all year round. In this way, the team leveraged a functional aspect into a feature of natural beauty and discovery.

Craftsmanship is also central to much of the beauty at Kern. The “art of the hand” evident in major design elements reveals the character of individual effort and celebrates beautiful imperfection. The stone wall’s irregularity and precision is a testament to the stonemason that built it, and the design decision to wrap the exterior stone wall indoors allows users to appreciate the work up close. The building was designed so that contrasting materials connect and contrast with each other, drawing attention to their individual distinctiveness and personality.

The design goal that relates most directly to architectural beauty was the desire to create an inspiring and aspirational space for the Hampshire community. The large open space of the central atrium is not a program or energy-driven feature; it is intended purely to inspire and awe. The quality of light, the tapestry of natural materials, and the massing are all designed to collectively create an atmosphere of openness and welcome.

Finally, some of the design approach lay in creating the conditions for beauty to manifest itself, as defined by the Hampshire community. Designing spaces for gathering, for art, and for education allowed the community to create places to project their own ideas of beauty and meaning. As one faculty member put it, “I love knowing that Living Building means not only sustainability, but also elements that bring joy. That impacts my sense of what can be valued going forward.”

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