Norwich University earns regional architecture award for Montpelier playground outdoor classroom

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Tue, 10/13/2020 - 1:51pm -- Denise Sortor

Norwich University’s Design+Build Collaborative earned a design excellence Merit Award from the American Institute of Architects, New England chapter for a project to design and build NEST, an outdoor classroom/playhouse as part of playground renovations at Montpelier’s Union Elementary School.

Their entry was one of 163 from across the region.

Norwich University Architecture Professor Tolya Stonorov and her students partnered with the school and the community on the project.

“First of all, it’s designed and built by students, so, that’s really cool,” one judge said. “Secondly, the way they got … community input into this project … I think for students, to be doing this as a very first kind of project out in their career, is formative. And I think that’s a really important thing about it.”

In December 2019, the same project earned a Citation Award in the Education category from the American Institute of Architects, Vermont chapter (AIAVT).

Jury comments provided by the chapter praised Norwich’s work.

“The process of engagement between architecture students and the community, especially with children, is commendable as a means of teaching collaboration and engagement in design.

“The combination of inclusive dialogue and exploration to create a shared community asset is inspiring,” the jury said.

Stonorov and her students worked closely with a Union Elementary’s volunteer committee of parents, teachers, administrators and community members and Union Elementary students to define the project and how it could serve the larger playground’s needs.

The NEST playhouse is Americans With Disabilities Act accessible, with wood features made from local hemlock and local white cedar sourced from Fontaine Mills in East Montpelier and Goodridge Lumber in Albany, Vermont, and sealed with Vermont Natural Coatings, made in Hardwick, Vermont. Every material is carefully chosen with an eye toward durability and local, sustainable and green technology.

Many partners donated and discounted their materials/labor to enable this project: DeWolfe Engineering Associates of Montpelier, Vermont; DMS Machining and Fabrication of Barre, Vermont; RK Miles of Morrisville, Vermont, Bellavance Trucking of Barre, Vermont, Big Heel Fasteners of Barnard, Kansas and InCord of Colchester, Connecticut.

Norwich University is a diversified academic institution that educates traditional-age students and adults in a Corps of Cadets and as civilians. Norwich offers a broad selection of traditional and distance-learning programs culminating in baccalaureate and graduate degrees. Norwich University was founded in 1819 by Captain Alden Partridge of the U.S. Army and is the oldest private military college in the United States. Norwich is one of our nation's six senior military colleges and the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).