Building History

Words: Dan KamysFebruary 2016

Mary Institute and Country Day School links science and technology with tradition through masonry.

[caption id="attachment_12064" align="alignnone" width="535"]Brick and limestone walls and pillars greet visitors to the north campus entrance plaza. The soffit, columns and wall panels on the second-lever terrace are all Indiana Limestone. Brick and limestone walls and pillars greet visitors to the north campus entrance plaza. The soffit, columns and wall panels on the second-lever terrace are all Indiana Limestone.[/caption] Masonry is the smart choice for building construction. The top academic campuses in the world choose brick and stone for their stately halls. Smart people make smart choices. The Mary Institute and Country Day School (MICDS) in St. Louis has propelled its brick building tradition into the 21st century with the newest addition to its campus. A timeline of brick buildings dating back nine decades stretches nearly half a mile north on Warson Road in Ladue, Mo. The latest entry in this cavalcade of brick beauties is the new, 86,000-square-foot building housing the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Center, as well as an expanded Community Center for the Upper School. “Brick was a major player in our design from the outset, as we needed to honor the campus tradition and the existing buildings,” says Todd Andrews, principal at Centerbrook Architects of Centerbrook, Conn. [caption id="attachment_12065" align="alignnone" width="535"]A carving of the school’s mascot adorns the limestone panels of Brauer Hall’s exterior hearth. Sixteen pieces of four-inch-deep limestone enclose a gas fireplace. A carving of the school’s mascot adorns the limestone panels of Brauer Hall’s exterior hearth. Sixteen pieces of four-inch-deep limestone enclose a gas fireplace.[/caption] The building is the major masonry component of a campus overhaul that includes exterior common spaces and entry plazas defined and accented by brick and limestone construction. The MICDS campus resembles a small New England liberal arts college. Its multi-story brick buildings are adorned with Greek revival porticos, clock towers and cupolas. The new building housing Brauer and McDonnell Halls presents a modern approach to building design, while holding tight to tradition. A considerable amount of glass, incorporated for natural day lighting, marries well with the surrounding masonry. A superb color match of the new and existing bricks extends the traditional look seamlessly into a new century. [caption id="attachment_12067" align="alignright" width="265"]A downspout demarcates the line between the new building on the left and the existing brick structure on the right. Great care was taken to find the right blend of brick colors and the right mortar color to match the existing building on the campus. A downspout demarcates the line between the new building on the left and the existing brick structure on the right. Great care was taken to find the right blend of brick colors and the right mortar color to match the existing building on the campus.[/caption] “It was very important to MICDS to get a really good color match,” says Mark Wellen, VP/senior project manager for BSI Construction. “The existing buildings are more than 60 years old. JDS Masonry and all their suppliers went above and beyond to find the best match.” Smart design and brick buildings go hand in hand, especially in one combining STEM education with community gatherings. Tschudy Plaza is one of the entry points to the newest campus addition. A semi-circular brick wall welcomes visitors, funneling into campus via a walkway flanked by carved limestone capitals. A fractal pattern carved into the limestone reinforces the connection between curriculum and construction. The new building has no formal name. It houses two halls – Brauer and McDonnell – in a sprawling multi-story brick incubator for thought, expression and growth. Brauer Hall houses offices, conference rooms and common areas, including an 800 seat amphitheater. This circular space establishes a curvilinear design pattern that is repeated on walls, walkways and common areas in combinations of brick and stone. [caption id="attachment_12066" align="alignleft" width="265"]Recessed layers of brick veneer enhance the beauty of the brick columns in the garden wall. The precise, technical skills displayed by masons and mason tenders of Bricklayers Local #1 were critical to the success. Recessed layers of brick veneer enhance the beauty of the brick columns in the garden wall. The precise, technical skills displayed by masons and mason tenders of Bricklayers Local #1 were critical to the success.[/caption] A curved limestone wall on the second story terrace of the teacher’s lounge is the Brauer Hall’s hidden gem, as it is not a public space available to the entire campus like so much of the building. McDonnell Hall houses the STEM Center. Circularity asserts itself in the curved Indiana Limestone wall of the building’s greenhouse section. “This building is very unique, as it has a lot of curves and oval shapes,” says Mark Wellen of BSI. “It is a lot easier to build a box. Everything is more difficult with curves. The masons met this challenge with incredible professionalism.” The freestanding curved brick colonnade in the courtyard formed by the new building is a point of pride for all involved in this project. “Building this was very intense – coordinating the stone heights, the corners, the arches,” says Jeff Schmidt, president of JDS Masonry. “It was the coolest part of the project. The colonnade extends for a straight course, and then it curves. The precision of the work by our bricklayers and mason tenders is very impressive. They did a great job.” Serpentine stonewalls repeat the circular pattern established by the garden wall in a courtyard made of Earthworks Gold Limestone capped with Indiana Limestone. Earthworks Gold Stone – which is quarried and fabricated right here in Missouri – was used for the exterior. It helped differentiate between the more refined limestone that was used for window sills and lintels and the rougher limestone used on the exterior spaces. CFO Becky Young served as the school’s liaison with the contractors. “This project included several complicated architectural details, and the masonry contractor successfully implemented the architect’s design intent,” says Young. “The contributions and efforts of all the design and construction team members, including the masonry contractor, resulted in a beautiful well-designed, well-built facility that provides remarkable spaces for teaching and learning and building community.” Buying supplies and material locally was a smart move for the design team, as it helped the project achieve LEED Platinum certification. “By sourcing the materials within a 500 mile radius of the job, we could apply for the higher LEED certification,” says Mark Wellen of BSI. “All the local masonry suppliers were of great assistance in that part of the process.”
This article is courtesy of the Masonry Institute of St. Louis, www.masonrystl.org.
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