A large theatre, gallery, and additional classrooms in a prominent location on the school’s campus was addressed by both depressing the mass of the building into the naturally sloping grade, and by separating the program and creating new outdoor spaces. A classroom addition is positioned at the end of an existing classroom corridor and overlooks an exterior theatre courtyard. The theatre and gallery spaces, depressed gracefully into the site, are accessed by an entry plaza with an open colonnade, but also through an underground connection from a communicating staircase in the classroom addition. The overall massing and scale are further diminished by the use of environmentally friendly horizontal siding materials that reference the existing campus vocabulary.
The 18,000-square-foot arts center gives the Beachside Avenue school a theater/auditorium with state-of-the art sound and lighting to host plays, concerts and talks for students and their families.
Westport architect Roger Ferris, of Roger Ferris + Partners, led the project, and recently addressed students to explain sustainability features of the new construction. The building uses solar panels, was constructed using recycled building materials, and has a “living” roof, where various plants act as pollutant filters and restrict the amount of rainwater flooding the drainage system. Along with native plantings that fill the landscape, these features are designed to support and protect the nearby salt marsh, school officials said in a news release. All have contributed to a building with minimal carbon footprint.
In addition, the new construction includes a STEAM shop (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), and four new classrooms comprising a Global Studies Center.
Several times throughout the school year, GFA plans to host speakers and productions at the center open to the public. The first production in the new theater will be the Upper School play, “You Can’t Take it With You.