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When Warren Wilson College officials raised $6 million to build the first instructional building on their Swannanoa Valley campus in 18 years, they had some very specific goals for that structure.

“The building is a classroom building with the flexibility to accommodate a variety of departments and instructional needs,” said Zanne Garland, vice president for advancement at the college. “Student involvement played a very important role in the design of the building and the function of the building has been doing what we wanted it to do.”

Opened in September, Myron Boon Hall, a multiuse, 15,000-square-foot structure, is home to the social sciences division of the liberal arts college and the master of fine arts program for writers.

Designed by architects at Lord Aeck Sargent out of Chapel Hill, with PFA Architects of Asheville leading the construction administration of the project, Myron Boon Hall is the first building you see as you drive across the Swannanoa Valley.

It was designed to capture the views overlooking the campus farm and provide a stimulating atmosphere for learning.

“In the new building, form follows function — faculty offices are integrated with classroom spaces and have collaboration spaces between every two to three offices so that students, faculty and staff can make these informal connections that is so unique and that they can value so much in their time here,” Garland said.

“The offices house social science, social work and MFA faculty, as well as student workers who work to support these programs in their work crew assignments on campus through the work program. All residential students work in more than 100 different crews from the farm and garden to academic crews, office crews, craft crews, and many work in the library to name a few.”

A couple of the most important aspects of the building design that boasts six classrooms and meeting spaces, 19 faculty offices and a large multiuse atrium, are flexibility and sustainability.

Principal architect Scott O’Brien of Lord Aeck Sargent said it was not only important to create a positive vision for the campus building but to make it flexible enough to meet many needs.

“This building provides a forum to do outreach, fundraising, hold meetings with parents, students and faculty in addition to addressing instruction needs,” O’Brien said, adding it is based on a live-work-learn design.

To provide the flexibility needed, the structure was built to blend with campus but with the future in mind and includes movable walls inside that allow for varying size spaces depending on the need. Groups from as small as 15 to as large as 150 can be accommodated.

“The operable walls inside allow you to make the building wide open for really big meetings,” O’Brien said.

Garland added that this type flexibility of the structure has allowed the college to host various events both academic and social such as reunions.

“Because the space can be configured in a number of ways, it has been utilized to enable events and space to connect with each other. It has been a really interesting gathering space and the only way we have been able to do that is because of the movable walls,” she said.

Connecting students to faculty and the community has been a major goal. “A driving strength of Warren Wilson College is a powerful and lasting relationship forged among faculty and students,” Garland said.

Garland said all their students do really high level research working directly with a faculty member. Every student does a capstone research project, a culminating project in their field. She said the design of the building that includes having faculty coexisting in the building in a way that offers more availability between instructors and students has had very positive outcomes.

O’Brien said the building was also designed to capture the beautiful views overlooking the valley rather than wall the outdoors out while focusing on sustainability. Classrooms have glass walls and there is a wrap-around veranda that showcases the farm, garden, Swannanoa River and mountains.

“It is too beautiful and too inspirational to ignore,” he said. “So we worked to connect the inside to the outside but also to control the lighting.”

Through use of overhangs where needed, natural lighting is used as part of the sustainable strategy. Also a part of the sustainable strategy is the integration of a heating and air system with an operable windows system that allows windows to open and shut automatically based on the building temperature to save energy. Helping with the water costs are low flow toilets and a rainwater system for the outdoor landscaping.

All the sustainable features should help the college meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Gold standards for environmental sustainability both indoors and in the landscaping. The paperwork has been submitted to accomplish this goal.

On the north side of the building is a uniquely designed outdoor classroom. Large stones in a semi-circle facing a chalkboard also allow instructional flexibility. “This classroom is built into the landscape and even includes wi-fi,” O’Brien said.

Myron Boon Hall has already proven it can better help this small, private institution connect with the community and will continue to feature various activities such as an upcoming lecture.

On Feb. 17, the campus will host a Land Conservation Lecture by Jay Leutze, author of “Stand Up That Mountain.” The event will be at 4 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

“We want to connect more deeply with Western North Carolina and offer programs on subjects like environmentalism, which is and has been a strength of Warren Wilson College that we would like to highlight,” Garland said. “This building is enabling us to create more opportunities for these types of events and connections.”

Contact freelance writer Angela Nicholas at aknicholas28@gmail.com.

IF YOU GO

What: Jay Leutze Conservation Lecture

When: 4 p.m. Feb. 17

Where: Myron Boon Hall, Warren Wilson College

Cost: Free and open to the public

 

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