Field House

Germantown Friends School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Friends Schools are founded on the principles of consensus and simplicity, ideals perfectly suited to the architecture of essentials. Germantown Friends School's new 17,000 square foot Field House, situated at a prominent corner of the campus, is an important landmark for the institution. Focusing on athletic instruction and play for lower and middle school children, the $4.9 million structure fulfills its educational mission to provide a multipurpose space that embraces green building technology and sustainable design, while fitting into the sensitive historic fabric of its surroundings. The program includes a large flexible space with basketball courts, volleyball and badminton facilities, and attendant support areas. Contextual responses to the scale, mass and material of its neighbors give the building its form. Of equal importance was the architects' commitment to engaging the landscape, inviting natural light into the interior, integrating local materials and building in an ecologically sensitive manner.

A strong horizontal line just below mid-height mitigates the structure's necessarily large volume. Low brick walls contain the rotated metallic principal volume, which rises up behind. The transparent north wall and translucent south wall shaded by fiberglass and metal awnings, introduce natural light to achieve optimum solar benefit, while further modifying the volume. Metal walls on the east and west reflect the morning and afternoon sun.

The building meets the ground with wall planes of brickwork, utilizing joinery, texture and color to complement the adjacent assembly building. The one-story residentially scaled brick walls and the patterned zinc shingles above echo the Victorian walls and mansards common to the neighborhood, allowing the building to take its place quietly among its surroundings.

Lower perimeter spaces, held orthogonal to the urban grid, are encased in wall planes that continually move toward or away from the central mass. This reinforces the horizontal, eliminating the high blank walls common to gymnasiums, and creating opportunities for external views and clearly marked entries. In the urban context, this rotation and juxtaposition allow the building to "turn the corner" while anchoring the campus boundary.


2006 Citation of Merit Design Award
AIA Pennsylvania
2006 Honor Award
AIA Philadelphia
2006 Facility of Merit Award
Athletic Business
2005 Construction Excellence Award for Excellence in Craftsmanship
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