The Gruss Center for Art and Design (GCAD) is a new 21st century student learning center and makerspace at The Lawrenceville School that bridges museum space and the school’s visual arts studios. The addition responds to this new campus typology with an enclosure of simple, neutral materials that allow for transparency and student engagement with the activities happening inside. This building represents a counterpoint to the brick tradition of the campus. It offers visibility and connection with all rooms, while still creating intimate spaces where all students and activities can feel a sense of belonging.
Today’s shift in educational paradigm centers on project-based learning to promote cross disciplinary teaching. Students realize their potential world impact by making things with their hands and fostering their creativity through group collaboration. The project nurtures this hands-on culture by providing work-focused spaces that foster student interaction.
Organized across three levels, GCAD includes a forum of student engagement, wood and metal shops, clean labs, print and seminar rooms, and large storage areas. These spaces culminate at the top level with the “flex room”. This 2,000-square-foot space is intentionally free of a fixed program. Instead, it allows for multiple and simultaneous uses from different departments and students which help to transform it and suit a variety of needs. Pinable and writable folding panels divide the flex room in halves or quarters, while the ceiling continues above the glass partition to make students feel engaged with the rest of the building. The design team conceived of the flex room as a living cabinet of curiosities. Through time, its shelves, furniture and storage will be filled with students’ work on constant display inspiring and informing future users.
The open access of the building to all students and visitors is thought to foster creativity and collaboration, and to engage with the multidisciplinary activities that are happening inside of it. Both Lobby and Forum spaces connect a void space where one can see, be seen, work, and linger. They are designed to be places that allow for impromptu gatherings and spark conversation. The façade at the Lobby opens fluidly into the plaza at the front, making it another working room outdoors.
The decision to keep the building minimal in its expression of materiality helped balance the raw and the polished, allowing to have exposed systems that speak the language of the making in the makerspace building, while keeping the construction at a minimal cost. Another driver for the design was the intention of bringing nature to all corners of the building, despite having one third of the space underground, and despite being inserted between two existing structures and therefore limiting the building’s exposure to the outside.
At Sasaki, we believe defining the future of place must be a collective, contextual, and values-driven exercise. We all have a stake in this work.
For over sixty years, Sasaki has brought together the best of architecture, interior design, planning and urban design, space planning, landscape architecture, and civil engineering to shape the places in which we live. Out of our Boston, Denver, and Shanghai offices we are defining the contours of place and redefining what’s possible along the way. Today, we are a diverse practice of over 300 professionals who share a singular passion for creating authentic, equitable, and inspiring places.