Just as Harkness teaching addresses the intellectual aspects of a Lawrenceville education and the House system addresses students’ emotional needs, responding to their physical needs – from exercise to nutrition – in a way that functions as a co-curricular complement to the culture of House and Harkness is a critical piece in the holistic education of today’s Lawrentians.
Combining a new athletic center with underform dining may not seem like a natural fit at first, but it sends an important message about the connection between fitness, nutrition, and overall health and wellness. It also ensures that most students will pass through on a daily basis, making the shared facility an ideal venue for reinforcing the sense of community exemplified by House and Harkness.
Recent research suggests that “breaking bread together brings people closer,” an especially important point as diversity becomes the norm in our society generally and at Lawrenceville specifically. In a February 2017 podcast, social scientists at the University of Chicago presented the results of a series of experiments that demonstrated the relationship between food and human connections. At one prominent New England college, a new community dining center is being viewed as a natural hub for “community conversations, cultural understanding, and civic engagement.”
An early gift from Joe Tsai ’82 and his wife, Clara, through the Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation, together with additional gifts from other major donors, has enabled the School to move forward with the hiring of an architect and planning for the combined facility. Sasaki, the internationally recognized planning and architectural firm designing the Gruss Center expansion and developing the campus master plan, is working closely with the School administration and Board of Trustees on a design that will satisfy Lawrenceville’s unique requirements.
“In concert with Sasaki, we’re also soliciting comments from everyone in our community – faculty, staff, alumni, parents, students – the same way we did in the early stages of developing the master plan,” says Head Master Steve Murray H’55 ’65 ’16 P’16 ’21. “That input really advanced our thinking about what was important to the community.” The first opportunity for comment took place over two days on campus recently, with more planned for the future, both live and online.
The dining center in the new complex will be designed in consultation with Sustainable Fare, the School’s food service provider, with a focus on creating a space that will better support the preparation of fresh food and help to educate students in making healthier food choices. The vision is for it to accommodate both small group dining and events that invite multiple classes to dine together. As the dining center for the Circle and Crescent Houses, the centrality of House life will be acknowledged in an intentional and meaningful way.
The new athletic complex will include multiple regulation-size basketball/volleyball courts; an eight-lane pool; wrestling room; squash courts; fencing and practice courts; indoor track; new ice hockey rink; rowing ergs; well-equipped fitness/weight rooms for all students and faculty/staff; enhanced spectator areas; team meeting rooms, and administrative offices. The main arena housing the indoor track will be expanded both to accommodate the crowds that attend Lawrenceville’s historic invitational track meets and to accommodate House sports and inclement weather practice spaces for baseball, softball, tennis, and lacrosse. In addition, the School intends to upgrade Tiihonen Field at Keuffel Stadium to a lighted, multi-sport turf field.
According to Murray, planning for the facility is progressing well. “Sasaki is already working with several anchor concepts, and we’ve begun the preliminary engineering work,” he says. “This involves, among other issues, understanding the water tables on campus, what parts of the existing Lavino Field House and Irwin Dining Center might be salvaged and repurposed, and what the efficiencies might be if we can do that.
“It’s an option we’re considering,” he adds, “depending on cost factors and whether retention of existing elements will restrict design. The idea of preserving the steelwork in the main arena of the field house is an exciting thought.”