Kenneth K.T. Yen Humanities Building

The Pennington School | Pennington, New Jersey

A new academic building, intended to support The Pennington School’s increased enrollment and enhance the quality of their learning environments, was a priority for the school that emerged from VMA’s comprehensive campus plan. The proposed site, directly situated at the main entrance and visible from the street, called for a new signature building that was sensitive to the rest of the historic campus.

In conceptualizing the new building, VMA embraced the challenge of redefining the traditional academic building in Pennington’s bold desire to better support its contemporary pedagogies and the interactive student experience. Our design arose from close collaboration with the school community to create the best use of space in the smallest footprint, reflecting the school’s desire to be both fiscally responsible and to honor their 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 classrooms than by the originally programmed series of equally-sized rooms. The resulting program, comprising 18 regular classrooms and five seminar classrooms, actually fit within a smaller footprint than the 21 classrooms originally requested. Throughout the building, every space works to capture the most potential for collegiality, student-teacher interaction, and cross-pollination of disciplines. This results in a collaborative and supportive environment for the entire school community. 

Inside the classrooms, flexible furniture and seamless, unobtrusive technology supports varying teaching techniques. Faculty and administrative areas are clustered to allow shared amenities and feel accessible to students. The Forum, an expansive double-height atrium, maintains a consistent flow of circulation and activity. It was designed to support lectures and events but is used daily 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.

The high level of spatial efficiency not only helped reduce the building’s scale but it led to increased sustainability and a coveted LEED Gold Certification designation.


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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