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NEWTON TWP., PA-On Sept. 27, ground will break on 123 acres of former farmland that will be used to relocate and consolidate Episcopal Academy’s current campuses in Devon and Merion into a single, seven-building campus with some renovated outbuildings. In an unusual move, the 221-year-old private day school enlisted a collaborative of four top-tier architectural firms for the project, which has an estimated construction cost of $212 million.

Philadelphia-based Hillier Architecture is the master architect, which is joined by Venturi, Scott-Brown & Associates and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, which are also based in Philadelphia, and the Cambridge, MA-based Gund Partnership. Philip Dordai, Hillier managing principal, tells GlobeSt.com, “Episcopal wanted signature buildings. A large campus built over time has buildings by many different hands. This is an opportunity to design from a clean sheet of paper and draw from a diverse spectrum of architectural and design philosophies, but also provide some commonality of materials and systems. There will be different looking buildings that work together from an esthetic and operational perspective.”

Hillier has responsibility for all documentation. The entire project has an aggregate of 396,295 sf, which includes renovation of four existing small buildings aggregating 23,305 sf. “It’s been a very collaborative process,” Dordai says, and tells GlobeSt.com that Hillier neither wanted nor had design veto power.

He credits the academy’s board with bringing sophisticated input to the process. The determination of which firm designed which buildings was based on each firm’s previous works and areas of expertise.

Led by Dordai and Nicholas Garrison, the firm’s design principal, Hillier has designed four of the new buildings and is also renovating the four existing ones. New construction includes a 64,130-sf lower school, 33,780-sf middle school, 39,220-sf upper school and 30,170-sf science center. An existing 7,935-sf mansion will be converted to an alumni center; a 695-sf farmhouse will become a facilities office, and a 10,700-sf former dairy barn and 3,975-sf tractor barn will be converted for equipment and administrative uses. “We felt that preserving these quite nice old structures and barns would be a better fit with the countryside than new construction,” Dordai says.

Robert Venturi, a 1944 Episcopal graduate, designed the 16,000-sf chapel, using a design he actually created for the academy as his senior thesis while at Princeton University. The chapel is seen as the heart of the new campus, and John Hunter of Venturi, Scott-Brown is the project architect.

Gund previously developed an initial campus master plan before the academy approached Hillier. Led by managing principal John Prokos, Gund has designed the 80,540-sf campus center, which includes a 600-seat, multi-purpose courtyard-style theater, black-box theater, dining rooms, library, visual arts center and art studios.

Bernard Cywinski is principal in charge of BCJ’s 109,150-sf athletic center. It will contain a gymnasium, three-court field house, 10 squash courts, fitness center, dance studio, wrestling room and indoor competition pool. Adjacent this building is an eight-lane outdoor track and nine athletic fields.

A group of Episcopal alumni acquired 223 acres in 2001 for $32 million, according to a spokesman for the academy, who tells GlobeSt.com that the school then sold approximately 100 acres to a residential homebuilder. Founded in 1785, the academy has an enrollment of 1,100 male and female students ranging from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. The new campus is expected to open in fall 2008.

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