Gilder Center Rises in the Heart of Campus
The long-awaited math and science building takes shape.
The rumble of backhoes isn’t usually considered a beautiful noise, nor is a giant crane a lovely, heartwarming sight. But on campus this summer and fall, both were welcome signals that years of planning are coming to fruition.
Construction of the Gilder Center, the new home for NMH’s math and science departments, began last May. The $30 million, 42,000-square-foot building, named in honor of the late Richard Gilder ’50, is expected to open during the 2021–22 school year. In September, as steel beams were being maneuvered into place for the building’s framework, few people were more thrilled than Head of School Brian Hargrove. “The Gilder Center is going to allow students and teachers to dream big and explore new horizons together,” he said. “It’s so exciting to see it take shape.”
The structure that’s going up between the Rhodes Arts Center and Forslund Gym is actually the second incarnation of the Gilder Center. The project was set in motion six years ago, when Richard Gilder and his wife, Lois Chiles, donated lead gifts and inspired other alumni to support the project. Yet the initial design required an investment that ultimately was beyond what the NMH Board of Trustees had targeted, and the board made the difficult decision to defer the project and reboot.
“Sixteen months ago, we agreed to a new path forward” and an updated approach, Hargrove said. In late 2019 and early 2020, NMH hired a new architect and project manager, modified the building design according to the math and science departments’ program needs, and raised the remaining funds. The project broke ground last spring, and, with dedicated funds separate from the school’s operating budget, work was able to proceed even though COVID-19 had led NMH to shift to remote learning, close the campus, and tighten its financial belt. And because the construction industry stayed “essential” in Massachusetts, “there was never really any slowdown in the work,” said NMH project manager Jeffrey Seymour. Once the building’s framework is complete, it will be “skinned and made weather-tight” before January, Seymour said, so interior work can continue through the winter.
“We broke ground on schedule, and the work is proceeding on schedule and on budget,” Hargrove said. “And we’re doing it at a time when so many things in the world are paused. It’s actually a wonderful metaphor for our school. We are moving forward with clarity in service to our students.”
The new building was designed by Flansburgh Architects of Boston to honor NMH’s rich architectural history while also providing a Silicon Valley-like learning environment full of flexible, multi-use academic spaces that could adapt as educational needs change over time. The design highlights natural light and local building materials, which supports NMH’s goal of reducing its carbon footprint and will make the building the “greenest” facility on campus. It will also meet sustainability standards laid out in the global “2030 Challenge,” which recommends greenhouse gas-reduction targets for architects and builders, specifically by incorporating materials that are produced using less carbon, such as cross-laminated timber and local slate and granite instead of less-sustainable concrete, metal, and brick.
Hargrove recently helped select the Vermont granite that will be used on the Gilder Center’s exterior, and he recognized the small yet meaningful moment in the context of NMH’s long history. “The granite that was used to build Memorial Chapel was installed in 1898, and here we are, 122 years later, doing the same thing for the Gilder Center,” Hargrove said. “This building is going to be here, supporting students and faculty, for a long, long time.”
Photos: Glenn Minshall