Phillips Exeter Academy; Phillips Church Renovation Story by Ethan Anthony AIA, ICTP
Ethan Anthony writes about his work as the Principal Architect and designer of the renovation of Phillips Church.
The first building Cram designed on the campus was the church which was designed for the Second Congregational Church. The church was eventually sold to the Academy and became its chapel. Cram went on to design seventeen more buildings on the campus including the stately Academic Building, all of the dorms and many classroom buildings. The first buildings designed by another architect on the campus were the Dining hall and the Library in the 1960's both by Louis I. Kahn.The library is one of Kahn's best known and most studied buildings.
My work at Exeter as then vice-President of Hoyle, Doran & Berry, as the firm was known at the time, began with an historical building survey of six Cram designed historic buildings initiated
as part of a major campus planning effort under the leadership of then
Facilities Director Don Briselden. One of the buildings we studied was the1895
On completing our historic building survey Don and I discussed how to proceed. Initial discussion Don had with School Chaplain, the Reverend Robert Thompson, http://www.exeter.edu/academics/4849_11641.aspx and the school principal indicated that there were many conflicting views on how to use the church. The school ministry which had originally served one religion now encompassed twelve religious traditions including Jewish, Moslem, Hindu, Quaker and West African Drumming each with differing needs. Finding a consenses on how to house them all comfortably in one old church building would be difficult and possibly contentious. It was clearly necessary to develop a strategy carefully before proceeding.
I had just read (while on vacation in Colombia) the seminal business book of the 90's, "Reengineering the Corporation, by Michael Hammer and James Champy (100 best business books of all time) which detailed a process for engineering change in organizations utilizing reengineering teams. I thought it presented a vaiable strategy for rethinking not just corporations but any organization so I proposed to Don that he find a leader who could form a committee composed of reprsentatives of the departments who used the church. The whole effort would be authorized by (the Csar), school principal Ty Tingley.
Don liked the idea and proposed it to the principal who agreed and thus began a year-long programming project. Ethan Anthony and Don met bi-weekly with the programming committee led by Project leader Peter Greer (article by Peter Greer) composed of representatives of the Ministry, Music, English and other departments who used the church. This effort included my attending worship services, meeting with all of the 12 groups and documenting and advocating for their needs. We documented the year-long study with the publication of a two volume study of the existing and projected uses for the building and design solutions for addressing building needs.
There followed a two-year design and documentation effort, a one year capital campaign to raise the funds needed and four years of construction.The design was participatory for the entire community at Exeter. A large particiaptory sketch night was held to allow the faculty and students to offer their ideas and a competition was held to choose the designer of the stained glass window. The competition was advertised internationally and received some 35 entries which were judged blind by the committee. When the winnning design was revealed, to our delight, it was a design submitted by Michelle Scwarz, one of the HDB architects who had been working on the team for almost a year!
Incredibly next year will mark ten years since we completed the renovation of the Phillips Church (certainly ten of the most tumultuous years of my life as an architect). To look back on my time designing Phillips Church is to recall five wonderful years participating in the Exeter community. Please read the excellent article about
our work at Exeter is available at this link:
Ethan Anthony AIA ICTP January 16, 2011