Designing Possibilities

 

Designing Possibilities

Pomfret’s long-awaited center for science, technology, engineering, and design takes shape.



In 1956, the Ambrose Monell Foundation donated $200,000 to Pomfret for the construction of a much-needed 10,000-square-foot science building in memory of Ambrose Monell III ’26, who died in a plane crash in 1929.

The family foundation, which still exists, is dedicated to supporting academic, environmental, and economic innovation, with a special focus on “early-stage research and social initiatives that have the opportunity to build a more creative, equitable, and innovative society.” 

When Monell first opened back in 1958, the building contained three laboratories (chemistry, physics, and biology), a large lecture hall, two small classrooms, two darkrooms, a space for electronics, a small animal room, a wood shop, a metal shop, an auto shop, an office for the science chairman, and a space to store equipment. 

Monell in the early days.

At the time, three science teachers taught just four basic science classes. This year, twelve different teachers are offering twenty-seven unique courses in eleven distinct fields. Everything from aquaponics, robotics, and forensics to astronomy, engineering, and environmental design. 

“Science is our most popular and subscribed subject, but the building is holding us back,” says Associate Head of School Don Gibbs, who spent twenty-one years teaching science in Monell. “We are bursting at the seams and limited by its aging infrastructure. If we want to attract the next generation of science students, we must invest in a facility worthy of the program it houses.”

To help remedy the situation, Pomfret recently announced Amplify: The Campaign for Pomfret School, a multi-year fundraising effort built around four core priorities: the need for a new science center, the advancement of teaching and learning, the expansion of access and affordability, and the fortification of annual giving. 

Amplify is the most ambitious fundraising effort in Pomfret history. To date, thousands of donors have contributed more than $60 million in gifts, commitments, and pledges — including $18 million of the $22 million needed to build a new center for science, technology, engineering, and design.

The new building will sit just to the south of Monell's current location. 

The three-story facility, as currently envisioned, will double the square footage of the existing building, from 10,000 to 20,000 square feet. In the drawings, the building sits on roughly the same footprint as Monell, but shifted slightly to the south, to offer more expansive views of Pomfret’s playing fields and the valley beyond. With the setting sun as a backdrop, towering walls of glass are juxtaposed against vertical slats of multi-tonal metal siding, exuding warm tones of red and brown.

“This is a very special design,” says James Rothman ’67, who won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. “I’ve been in many science centers, as you can imagine, and I don’t think I have ever seen one with such a unique, open, and inviting layout.”

The open and airy design is the brainchild of Annum Architects. Based in Boston, the award-winning firm was founded by renowned architect Ann Beha over thirty years ago. “From innovative design for new buildings to the reinvigoration of historic buildings, our work transforms spaces into timeless places,” their website says. 

The building will house a mixture of classrooms, labs, and community gathering spaces.

Annum clients include the US Department of State, Yale, MIT, Harvard, and the Smithsonian, as well as other leading academic, civic, and cultural organizations. Awards for their work include the Boston Society of Architects Educational Facilities Award, American Institute of Architects Honor Award for Architecture, and the SCUP/AIA-CAE Excellence in Architecture Award.

“Ann is a gifted architect and Annum is a unique practice,” says Chief Financial Officer Ed Griffin, who chaired the selection committee. “They have exceeded our expectations at every turn.”

At present, the School is still working to secure the remaining $4 million in funds it needs to begin construction. If the fundraising goes well this winter, workers will break ground in March 2023, with an estimated completion date of September 2024. 

To learn more about how you can get involved, contact Director of Advancement Will Mitchell at 860.963.5957.

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