Hawken’s sprawling new upper school building looks like something out of a futuristic version of Little House on the Prairie, which fits right in with the quaint, woodsy Gates Mills locale. The $25.5 million Stirn Hall is the biggest project in the school’s 101-year history. Soaring public common areas, floor-to-ceiling windows and a two-story stone fireplace might make you think this is simply an architectural wonder. But with a fabrication lab, larger classrooms and more, it’s a hub for active learning. “The premise of this building is that every classroom should operate the same way art studios and science classrooms have always operated,” says head of school Scott Looney. Here are three ways Stirn Hall makes school cool.
Cafe Chic: Most college campuses and office buildings boast coffee shops, so Hawken added a student cafe. Kids and teachers can grab a granola bar, smoothie, bagel, fruit or cup of coffee between classes in this central space. But Looney promises the cafe is not about pumping waves of caffeine into the students. “It’s to create a sense of community,” he says.
Media Mania: Hawken’s new media center is ready to unleash the next wave of film and digital artists on the world. Filled with a green-screen film room and editing booths, the center will turn students into pros faster than you can say action. “We would never send a kid out into the world without the ability to tell a story through writing,” explains Looney. “We shouldn’t send a kid out into the world without being able to create film, to create a documentary, to create a story with video.”
Nature & Nurture: Students catch glimpses of the outdoors at every turn in Stirn Hall through its massive windows in classrooms and common area lounges. The exposure to natural light and green space benefits their psyche. But the windows within the space allow for needed transparency between students and faculty too. “Every common space has a faculty office with glass in-between,” explains Looney. “Kids don’t want to talk to the adults in their lives, but they want to know they’re there.”