Bennington College has enlisted C:FA to collaborate on a full renovation of its Commons building; the original centerpiece of its 1932 Beaux-Arts campus plan. The 45,000 square-foot renovation is the first substantial upgrade to the building since the 1930s, and reinforces Commons’ unique character and history while envisioning how it can continue to serve the college community for years to come.
As the original hub of campus activity, Commons was the one building that combined learning, socializing, and dining under one roof. Our work restores this spectrum of programming while rejuvenating the spaces and circulation according to contemporary academic, social, and architectural contexts. Central to this goal is reoccupying nearly 14,000 square-feet of unused space as a new campus learning center, expanding academic programming in a cost effective and practical manner. New learning spaces are combined with an enlarged dining facility and revamped social spaces to restore Commons’ position as a vibrant center in the lived experience of the campus.
In its original beaux-arts conception, Commons was a two-sided building; its monumental southern façade anchoring the great lawn and flanking colonial houses, while the smaller north wing was a service entry for back-of-house operations. As Bennington’s campus has expanded northward over the last 80 years, Commons is now the geographic center of campus. Despite this, flow remains obstructed both within the building and between the north and south halves of the campus – a condition which stands in stark opposition to the ethos of the college, which emphasizes seamless integration across disciplines.
Our work clarifies the space to improve circulation throughout the building, while establishing strong connections between the interior life of the building and the surrounding landscape. A new double-height glazed entry replaces the service entry on the north side and creates a new beacon for academic and dining programs that relates to the contemporary architectural language of adjacent buildings.