July 2, 2020 — The rumble of bulldozers and backhoes isn’t always considered a beautiful sound, but on the NMH campus this summer, it’s the sound of progress and creativity and years of planning coming to fruition. Construction began in May on the Gilder Center, a new math and science building that Head of School Brian Hargrove says will allow students and teachers to “dream big and explore new horizons together.”
The COVID-19 outbreak last spring led NMH to reimagine its educational program, both for the end of last year and the coming academic year, but with dedicated building funds in place, the late-May groundbreaking for the Gilder Center went off as planned. “The contractor got started, and everything has moved along as scheduled,” says Jeffrey Seymour, project manager NMH Plant Facilities. More than 3,500 cubic yards of topsoil has been moved, water and sewer mains have been relocated, and the first section of concrete foundation has been poured. Besides the workers wearing face masks and engaging in physical distancing as much as possible, COVID-19 has had almost no impact on the project, Seymour says. “Construction stayed ‘essential’ in the state of Massachusetts, so there was never really any slowdown in our work.”
The $30 million project — named in honor of the late Richard Gilder ’50, who donated a lead gift of $10 million for the project in 2014, and then pledged an additional $5 million challenge gift in June 2015 — was approved by the NMH Board of Trustees in February. The 42,000-square-foot, open-concept building will provide flexible, multi-use academic spaces that can adapt as educational needs change over time. Its sustainable design, which highlights natural light and local building materials, supports NMH’s goal of reducing its carbon footprint and will make the Gilder Center the “greenest” facility on campus.
Seymour reports that foundation work will continue over the summer, underground utilities will be installed, and by early September, workers will begin erecting the steel structures that will frame the building. “The plan is to get it skinned and weather-tight before the winter, so they can work all winter on the interior,” Seymour says. The Gilder Center will open for the 2021–22 school year.
“This is an exciting time for the NMH campus,” Hargrove says. “With this magnificent building, we are looking to the future, creating a Silicon Valley-like learning environment for our students and faculty while we also honor our school’s architectural history. I can’t wait to watch it all take shape in the coming months.”