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2011 Paul E. Tsongas Award for Stewardship April 6, 2011
For demonstrating good stewardship in the recent renovations of many of its residential buildings, Amherst College is one of 19 educational institutions in the state soon to be honored with a 2011 Paul E. Tsongas Award from Preservation Massachusetts (PM), a nonprofit organization “dedicated to preserving the Commonwealth’s historic and cultural heritage.” The award “recognizes those who have played an extraordinary role in promoting the preservation of our Commonwealth’s past for the benefit of the future.” While the majority of the other schools have won on the basis of particular single-building preservation projects, Amherst's recognition is for overall stewardship over time.
According to Tom Davies, the college’s assistant director of facilities and director of design and construction, a board member of PM became aware of Amherst’s ongoing stewardship efforts when Davies gave a presentation on the topic of sustainable preservation at a Northeast Sustainable Energy Association conference in 2009. (The college’s recent significant progress in energy efficiency is proof that “preservation and sustainability can co-exist,” he added.) At the board member’s encouragement, the staff of the college’s Design and Construction Department then prepared an application for the Tsongas Award.“This year’s awards set out to recognize and honor Massachusetts colleges, universities and preparatory schools that have utilized and embraced preservation into their educational identity in a variety of ways,” wrote James W. Igoe, president of PM, in a congratulatory letter. “Amherst’s commitment to maintaining their historic campus showcases the incredible work and dedication of your firm and serves as a model for other colleges and universities to emulate.”
The team highlighted the recent renovation and reconstruction of 18 campus buildings as part of the Residential Master Plan—emphasizing the care taken to preserve the historical character and beauty of each structure while making it safer, more environmentally friendly, more energy-efficient and more accessible to those with disabilities. In renovating Morrow Dormitory, for example, the builders set up “atypical sprinkler systems” so that the dorm could conform to modern fire-safety codes without sacrificing its oak-paneled lobby and iron staircase. The antique chestnut flooring of the renovated North and South College buildings was recycled from the original buildings’ attic framing. And during the renovation of Seelye House, “it was discovered that each of the existing corinthian columns and one of the corinthian capitals on the front porch were severely water damaged,” the team’s application for the award reads. “The existing damaged capital was removed and a plaster cast was made off site. A new cedar capital was constructed from the cast, to match the existing three capitals. The new capital and columns were installed to match the existing construction.”
Efforts such as these inspired PM to select Amherst for the Tsongas Award, which the organization established four years ago in memory of a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts. Representatives of the winning schools will accept their awards at PM’s annual Preservation Awards Dinner in Boston on May 4. Davies and Jim Brassord, Amherst’s director of facilities, say they are likely to attend.
When asked about Amherst’s stance on preservation, Davies said that he is humbled by his department’s responsibility toward “the rich history embodied in the bricks, stones, columns, trees” of the campus. But, he also noted, “this isn’t a museum; it’s a very dynamic place with constantly evolving and often cutting-edge functional requirements. Preservation must be integrated with today’s needs and a projection of the future as well.”
2011 Marvin Architect Challenge Award
The renovations of Mayo Smith, Seelye, and Hitchcock Houses, at Amherst College were selected as the recipients of the 2011 Architect Challenge Award. This award is given to designs that use Marvin window products and exemplify solution-driven design, innovation, classic beauty and sustainability. Amherst College was recognized for their historic preservation and forward thinking in the category of collegiate housing.
2010 AIANY Award of Merit
Amherst College’s Mayo Smith, Seelye and Hitchcock Houses overlook the Amherst town common and are local historic landmarks. This project assures their preservation. But it also looks to the challenges of the future with ultra-high performance building envelopes, the use of solar energy to provide most of the domestichot water needs and high efficiency mechanical and electrical systems. The off-campus buildings were part of the 2010 “Greening of the Valley” exhibition at the University of Massachusetts highlighting environmental responsive building initiatives occurring in the Pioneer Valley. The buildings provide a living environment that’s attractive to students with amenities comparable to the new dorms on campus. Code compliance for life safety and accessibility meets current standards. And the cost per bed is substantially less than a comparable new residence. Plans include a mix of room types preferred by upper class students, including singles, two-room doubles and suites. Added program includes common social and study space, music practice rooms, laundries and bathrooms. Existing floor plans were revised to improve space utilization, reclaim under-utilized space and accommodate new egress stairs. At Hitchcock House, an addition provides additional bed space requested by the College.
Honor Award of the
Boston Society of Architects
The Beneski Earth Sciences Building and Natural History Museum is sited at a prominent location at the head of the East Campus. The museum allows for the dramatic display of the College's Natural History collections. The facility enhances the identity and visibility of both the geology department and museum. The museum takes the form of a large glass display case sliding proud of the more traditional form of the building, recalling the many drawers in the museum available for patrons to study the collection.
2008 Best in Class Brick in Architecture Award
Beneski Earth Sciences and Natural History Museum at Amherst College won the 2008 Best in Class Brick in Architecture Award in the Educational Building category, the most competitive class for this prestigious award.
Exterior brick and terra cotta elements combine to create a balanced composition of positive and negative space, varying subtle textures between. Terra cotta “baguettes” extend from solid masonry out across expanses of glass visually uniting the façade while providing sun screening that both reduces energy usage and protects the specimens inside. The form, color, shape and detailing of masonry elements are sensitive to neighboring McKim Mead & White’s Fayerweather Hall while remaining distinctly of the 21st century. Aesthetic as well as technical design elegance contributed to this award.
2005 Award for Design Excellence, AIA New England
Sited along a gently sloping lawn, the buildings frame the view towards the Holyoke Range beyond, acting as a transition between the more formal areas of campus and the athletic fields below.
These 4 and 5 story buildings are reminiscent of the simple Puritan buildings of historic College Row. The buildings have relatively small floor plans with a maximum of 15 single occupant rooms on a floor to encourage a strong sense of community. Their simple yet elegant forms provide a place for students to call home.