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The Powerhouse

The Powerhouse

At Amherst College, we created a student gathering and event space in a tactful but raw reworking of an historic 1925 McKim Mead & White steam plant. The existing classic form with its industrial interior was reconfigured to accommodate performances, dance parties, speakers and other student gatherings. Lighting and sound systems with flexible furniture concepts support a broad range of student-lead activities.

Amherst College
Amherst, MA
Completed: 2014 6,500 sf
Photography by David Lamb Photography

Amherst’s program includes provision for accessibility, a new pergola wing for restrooms, and food service support. A strong new landscape concept marries the interior to a paved exterior terrace with natural amphitheater seating to accommodate outdoor events and to accept spill-over from indoor social activities. The site is adjacent to a new residential quadrangle.

The new facility is being studied to emphasize novel approaches to natural ventilation and waste heat recovery from existing utilities. Contemporary design elements are conceived within a robust framework of historic preservation. Structural alterations include the removal of columns and a series of seismic upgrades. The architectural concept is related to Bruner/Cott’s ground-breaking design approach to the Massachusetts Museum for Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) in North Adams.


  • 2015 AS&U Outstanding Design Award, Adaptive Reuse
  • 2016 ACUI Facility Design Award
  • 2016 BSA Education Facilities Design
  • 2017 Preservation MA, Paul & Niki Tsongas Preservation Award, Most Innovative