Norwich University Outdoor Classroom Earns AIA New England Award


Nov. 14, 2017

A Norwich University design/build project, an outdoor classroom produced in collaboration with the classroom’s recipients—Northfield High School students—has been recognized with a Citation Award for Excellence in Architecture by American Institute of Architects (AIA) New England Region.

The building, affectionately named ‘The Dutch Angle,’ is approximately 24 feet square by 18 feet tall at its highest and uses a sophisticated cable and turnbuckle-tensioned king-post beam to span the entire 24 feet length. The project engaged Norwich students in architecture, civil engineering and construction management programs.

AIA New England announced on Oct. 20 that the Norwich project earned a citation among seven Honor Awards, six Merit Awards, and twelve Citation Awards out of 275 total entries submitted for consideration.

“This fresh air classroom is a great example of how a small but thoughtful design intervention, conceived with community input and built with an attention to craft, can have a big impact on the people who use it,” Dean of the College of Professional Schools Aron Temkin said. “It is wonderful to see this project receive broader recognition.”

In January 2015, students from the Northfield High School Students Taking Alternative Routes (STAR) program met with students from the School of Architecture + Art’s 802-Lab to discuss the design and construction of an outdoor classroom in the 135-acre woodland adjacent to the Garvey Hill Soccer Field in Northfield. From the outset the students designed this work to be gentle on the landscape. By making sure that all of the pieces and components could be transported without heavy machinery, the natural qualities of the site were preserved even during the construction process.

Jury comments included: “We commend this project based on the exemplary fact that it brought together three generations of architects together: past students (professionals), current students and future students. This project proposes an innovative model for engaging with the emerging architectural community which we appreciate.”

The superstructure was entirely pre-fabricated on the Norwich campus and then trucked to the Garvey Hill Soccer Field, where it was unloaded and hand-carried across the soccer field and into the forest. It is estimated that together the students carried about four tons of material and tools into the woods to construct the Dutch Angle Classroom.

The STAR program offers an academic setting for Northfield High School students looking for a more experiential classroom setting.The STAR Program seeks to establish relevance and purpose in students’ education by facilitating fundamental bush-craft skills like making fire through friction, learning how to identify wild edibles, and how to build primitive shelters from woodland debris.

Read more about the design/build project here:

Photo at top by John W. Hession

About Norwich University

Norwich University is a diversified academic institution that educates traditional-age students and adults in a Corps of Cadets and as civilians. Norwich offers a broad selection of traditional and distance-learning programs culminating in Baccalaureate and Graduate Degrees. Norwich University was founded in 1819 by Captain Alden Partridge of the U.S. Army and is the oldest private military college in the United States of America. Norwich is one of our nation’s six senior military colleges and the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) 

Norwich University will celebrate its bicentennial in 2019. In fulfillment of Norwich’s mission to train and educate today’s students to be tomorrow’s global leaders and captains of industry, Norwich launched the Forging the Future campaign in 2014. The five-year campaign, which is timed to culminate in 2019, is committed to creating the best possible learning environment through state-of-the-art academics and world-class facilities and is designed to enhance the university’s strong position as it steps into its third century of service to the nation.

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