Kenneth K.T. Yen Humanities Building

The Pennington School | Pennington, New Jersey

The design of this new academic building at The Pennington School was conceived to challenge and redefine the versatility of traditional academic building design in a way that would better support Pennington’s contemporary school pedagogies and interactive student experience. The project was at the center of a campus master plan produced by VMA in 2012 which was a response to their shared goals of accommodating increased enrollment and improving the quality of the school’s teaching environments.

From the very beginning, we worked with the school to create the best use of space within the smallest footprint. This reflected both the school’s need to be fiscally responsible as well as their desire to for the project to reflect their institutional commitment to environmental sustainability. A close analysis of Pennington’s daily class schedule determined that the school would be better served by a mix of classroom sizes than by the originally programmed series of equal-sized classrooms. The resulting program, comprising eighteen regular classrooms and five seminar rooms, can actually fit within a smaller footprint than the original 21 requested classrooms.

Throughout the building, the theme continues: every space works to capture the most potential for collegiality, student-teacher interaction, and cross-pollination between disciplines, resulting in a collaborative and supportive environment for the entire school community. Inside the classrooms, seamless and unobtrusive technology supports varying teaching techniques, and flexible furniture can form multiple configurations to accommodate different needs. Faculty and administrative areas are clustered to allow shared amenities and to make them more accessible to students. The Forum, an expansive double-height atrium, was designed to maintain a constant flow of circulation and activity. It was designed for lectures and events as well as an informal gathering and study space. The building’s corridors are populated with informal breakout spaces outfitted with comfortable seating in fun colors where students can work or socialize outside of class.

The high level of spatial efficiency not only helped reduce the building’s scale, it also led to a more sustainable building which achieved LEED Gold Certification.


LEED Gold Certified
Honorable Mention Vision Award - Education, Floor Focus (2018)


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Size: 30,000 sf
Budget: $11.3 million


Architecture, Interior Design, Landscape, Sustainability

Kenneth K.T. Yen Humanities Building

The Pennington School | Pennington, New Jersey

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