New Amherst College Lyceum Will Aim to Echo the Greeks

By Eric Althoff

AMHERST, Mass.—Bruner/Cott Architects is working with Milford, Mass.-based general contractor Daniel O’Connell’s Sons on Amherst College’s 20,000-square-foot Aliki Perroti & Seth Frank Lyceum. When completed for the fall, the lyceum will provide a permanent home for the Center for Humanistic Inquiry (CHI), Amherst’s history department, as well as faculty and educational space devoted to courses in critical thinking and discourse.

Bruner/Cott took as part of the design inspiration the Lyceum, which was a signature part of Athens during Greek antiquity. Accordingly, the Aliki Perroti & Seth Frank Lyceum is meant to similarly foster collaboration and conversation among staff and students so that new ideas can be formulated as part of the ongoing discourse at Amherst.

The lyceum incorporates a historic home that has been a part of the campus for some time, thereby linking the college’s past with both its present and future as the house becomes a piece of this new learning environment. The house’s interior is being renovated to accommodate modern classrooms and offices.

Next door to the house will be an addition whose space will be separated by a transparent exterior wall. Collectively, the old and new buildings will be home to an event area, flexible classrooms and additional public areas. Daniel O’Connell’s Sons will be constructing a three-story office wing behind the old house. All of these areas will be connected via an open commons, where students, staff and visitors are all able to interact with one another.

The lyceum’s design aesthetic features sustainability elements as part of Amherst’s goal of going carbon-neutral by 2030. Wood and other plant-based materials are being prioritized for the construction, which will help to store carbon. The building’s “envelope” will also be airtight and thus maintain interior temperatures more efficiently.

Daniel O’Connell’s Sons’ other work in the Northeast school construction sector includes the Simmons Hall residence building at MIT as well as the Center for Science and Computation and Fisher Performing Arts Center, both for Bard College.

Bruner/Cott partner principal Jason Forney said in a statement sent to School Construction News that Amherst College is the first client the architect has worked with that specifically requested active consideration of the life cycles of various building materials used for the lyceum.

“Delivering effective solutions for interweaving a new contemporary academic center with an existing masonry house, the resulting design is a smartly sustainable building that showcases the beauty of contextual natural materials,” said Forney. “Selected to match the durability of nearby campus buildings, the materials also exemplify extremely low-carbon construction and high-performance systems.”

The lyceum recently celebrated its topping out ahead of the autumn scheduled completion.

“It’s rewarding to see…collaborative spaces taking shape,” Forney said, adding his design firm is especially pleased with the lyceum’s “blending of existing masonry juxtaposed with cross laminated timber and steel [as well as] the framing of views back to the original campus buildings and the Holyoke Range beyond.”