Milton, Massachusetts

“True Science thrives best in glass houses, where everyone can look in,” wrote Nobel Prize–winning molecular biologist Max Perutz. Boston-based William Rawn Associates, Architects (WRA) took this sentiment to heart in the design of their Pritzker Science Center at Milton Academy, which puts visibility, in every sense of the word, front and center. The new building is evidence that the elite prep school, founded in 1798 and located in the bucolic Boston suburb of Milton, while steeped in tradition, is not stuck behind cloistered walls.

For many years Milton's science department operated out of a concrete Brutalist building. Recognizing that the outdated “bunker” might constrain the program's future, the school worked with a consultant to formally define the department's needs. The art department moved into the former science building and science moved into a temporary cluster of trailers. Meanwhile, venture capitalist and Milton alum J. B. Pritzker (of the famed Chicago family) provided a lead gift for a new building, and the project started in earnest.

The overarching mandate to make science visible was coupled with the demands to provide flexible space, foster a sense of community, and capture the energy of science. “When I was a kid,” says WRA principal William Rawn, “there was no fun to science. It was all about work. The idea of changing the paradigm was really important here—that struck a chord with me.” So the building also aimed to model the open and interconnected spaces in which professional science is practiced today, as well as to promote active learning, a hallmark of Milton.

To proclaim the new center's significance, the team selected a site along the Green, near the center of the historic, Georgian-style campus. While the architects hoped to downplay the scale of the 40,000-square-foot building by orienting its narrow end to face Centre Street, they also wanted a prominent front door, like the other street-fronting Upper School academic buildings. This feature is called out with a 35-foot-high curtain wall, animated by the activity in the public spaces and classrooms behind it. The building bends to the south, expressed as a bar, clad on the west facade with pre-patinated copper panels. The administration says the surrounding community embraced the new neighbor, acknowledging that WRA's 2003 glass-and-wood student center likely warmed the neighbors to modern design at Milton. The architects also used brick on the exterior to both break down the steel-framed building's relatively large mass as well as integrate it into the campus. If the north and west facades are the department's calling cards, the building's bowed, brick east side is its bashful cousin—a prosaic, institutional sea of red masonry and punched windows that knows its place in the backyard.

The building's form responds to its double-height, double-loaded central corridor that is flanked by classroom-labs: They combine seminar tables and group lab benches in a single room to promote hands-on learning. The plan gets a twist as the spine kinks in the middle, cleverly creating the heart of the building, which comprises student and faculty lounges. Teachers do not have private offices, so the keystone-shaped faculty lounge functions as a central gathering place, which connects, through floor-to-ceiling, butt-glazed glass walls, to the student lounge, as well as to the neighboring Inquiry Labs, where children pursue independent study. “The faculty wanted to be in the center of it all,” points out Rawn, “in the interest of fostering this scientific community.”

Visually and physically connecting the two stories largely drove the design, say the architects. By moving all mechanicals above the second level, the team lowered the ground floor's ceiling height down from the typical 14 feet to 11-foot-4, creating—along with three open stairways—an intimacy between levels. Abundant floor-to-ceiling glass brings classroom activity out to the hall and carries light into the core, as do clerestories and skylights. “Designing the interior was this progressive unveiling to the point that it became wide open,” notes associate principal Samuel Lasky. These moves are not lost on the students: “The building has a good community feel to it,” says senior Bright Osajie, over a cow heart he is dissecting. “The classes are more connected, and there is a lot of science immersed in this building—you can see science everywhere.”

Milton also wanted their building to teach sustainable practice by example. The Pritzker Center employs an impressive range of strategies, from native plantings, a green roof, 100 percent on-site infiltration of rainwater, reclaimed and locally sourced materials, daylight harvesting, and construction-waste recycling and reuse. A touch screen building dashboard in the front lounge provides real-time information on energy and resource consumption and solar electricity generation.

“I love the vitality of the building,” says department chair Michael Edgar, as students stream into the Pritzker Center for second period. “One of our aims as a department and as a school is to ignite interest and passion in our kids. Being able to see what's going on in all the classes and experience not only what you are doing, but what everyone is doing, is an excellent catalyst for getting kids excited about science.”

Location:  Milton Academy, Milton, Massachusetts

Completion Date: August 2010

Gross square footage: 40,000 g.s.f.


Milton Academy

William Rawn Associates, Architects, Inc.
10 Post Office Square, Suite 1010
Boston, MA 02109
617-423-3470 (main)
617-451-9205 (fax)

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
William L. Rawn, FAIA, LEED AP – Principal for Design
Douglas C. Johnston, AIA, LEED AP – Principal for Design
Samuel M. Lasky, AIA, LEED AP – Associate Principal for Design
Andrew Jonic, AIA, LEED AP – Project Architect
Mark Scott, AIA, LEED AP
Carla Ceruzzi, AIA, LEED AP
Rachel Gealy, LEED AP
Stephanie Ulrich

(All personnel listed as AIA above are Registered Architects)

Interior designer: Lab [3.2] Architecture

Structural:  LeMessurier Consultants

Civil/MEP/FP: Rist-Frost-Shumway Engineering, P.C.

Geotechnical:  McPhail Associates, Inc.

Landscape:  Stephen Stimson Associates

Lighting: Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design

Acoustical:  Acentech, Inc.      

Code:  R.W. Sullivan Engineering

Cost Estimator:  Faithful + Gould         

Exterior Envelope: Simpson Gumpertz & Heger

General contractor: Shawmut Design and Construction

Robert Benson Photography
Phone: 860.951.3004

CAD system, project management, or other software used:  AutoCAD


Structural system
Steel Frame

Manufacturer of any structural components unique to this project:
Polished Concrete (1st floor public spaces)
Installer: Redmond Concrete
Color/Finish: L.M. Scofield

Exterior cladding
Masonry: Morin Brick (Brick Veneer); Polycor (Granite Base)

Metal Panels: Revere Copper Evergreen

Metal/glass curtain wall: Kawneer 1600 Curtain wall – Solarban 60 1” Insulated Glazing Units

Precast concrete: Northern Design Precast, Inc. (Precast Parapet Cap)

Wood at soffits: Atlantic White Cedar (Supplier: Wood, Steel, and Glass, Inc.)

Moisture barrier: Carlisle CCW-705 Self-Adhering AVB System

Curtain wall: (See Above)

Elastomeric: Firestone Ultraply TPO (White)

Metal: Revere Copper (Central Gathering Canopy Roof only)

Other: Green roof – Liveroof Planting System

Aluminum frame: Kawneer 1600 (All Curtainwall and Punched Windows)

Glass: Solarban 60 1” Insulated Glazing Units

Entrances: Kawneer 500 Series

Wood doors: Lambton Doors

Upswinging doors, other: (Glass & Aluminum “Garage” Doors between Classrooms) – Overhead Door

Locksets: Sargent

Closers: LCN

Exit devices: Von Duprin

Pulls: Rockwood

Interior finishes
Acoustical ceilings: Armstrong Ultima 2x2, Armstrong Optima Plank, Decoustics Claro

Suspension grid: Armstrong Silhouette 1/8” Screw Spline (Interior Glazing)

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Fisher Hamilton Scientific (Classroom Lab Casework)

Paints and stains:
Benjamin Moore | Sherwin Williams Wright Architectural Millwork
(Millwork in public spaces and exterior)

Wall coverings: Forbo tackboards

Paneling: White Ash Plywood Veneer – Wright Architectural Millwork

Solid surfacing:
(Class/Lab Counters) – Durcon;
(Interior Windows Sills) – Durcon

Floor and wall tile:
(Bathrooms) – DAL-Tile;
(Monumental Stair Treads) – Vermont Structural Slate

Resilient flooring in Classrooms: Marmoleum

Carpet: Miliken Contract

Raised flooring: The Becht Corporation (2nd floor T&G White Ash)

Special interior finishes unique to this project:
L.M. Scofield Lithochrome Color Hardener
Polished Concrete Floor – L.M. Scofield Formula One K
Monumental Stairs – Watertown Iron Works, Inc.

Office furniture: Steelcase

Chairs: (Lounge) Keilhaur, HBF; (Wood Classroom) Community

Tables: (Harkness Tables) McLaughlin Woods

Upholstery: Maharam, Knoll

Other furniture (use additional sheet if necessary): (Area Rugs) Bentley Prince Street

Downlights: Philips Lightolier

Task lighting: Finelite

Exterior: Spring City Electrical Manufacturing Co.

Dimming System or other lighting controls: Omnilite | nLight

Elevators/Escalators: Schindler

Zurn (Dual Flush Valves for Water Closets);
Delta (Hands-Free Lavatory Faucets)

Energy management or building automation system: Invensys

Photovoltaic system: Solarworld

Other unique products that contribute to sustainability:
Solar Hot Water Panel System – Vitosol 200-F
Building Dashboard – Lucid Design Group
Excel Hand Dryer