Mount Greylock’s academic and athletic program is compelled by the extraordinary beauty, spirituality and history of its environment. Located in the Berkshires, just to the west of its namesake the tallest point in Massachusetts (Mt Greylock), the Mount Greylock Regional School has panoramic views of mountains, fields and valleys that are nothing short of spectacular. Herman Melville, just one of the many authors who was drawn to this area, is said to have conceived Moby Dick while gazing out his window at the snow covered Mt. Greylock.
Birchwood Design Group was brought on to assist Design Partnership of Cambridge in a feasibility and schematic design study for the school that began this spring. In a meeting with the faculty, what was striking to all of us was the amount of students engaged in outdoor athletic programs. Over 70% of the school population was involved in after school athletic activities and currently 7th, 8th and 9th graders are required to participate in physical education every day. What’s even more exciting and a direct reflection of the schools dramatic setting is the diversity of activities available. Everything from Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, ultimate frisbee to baseball and track. Outdoor learning doesn’t end there, other academic studies include photography, science and math, where students study fresh water ecology, soils, geometry and rocket building.
When Birchwood began conceptualizing the landscape for the new school it was paramount that the exterior landscape be a seamless extension of the physical school, promoting learning and growth through the creation of spaces aesthetically and ecologically fused with the native surroundings.
This is expressed through both the design and materials. The new entrance to the school is intended to be depressed into the landscape with the entrance plaza set higher to create un-encumbered views of the mountains and mitigate the visual clutter of vehicles and roads, forcing them to recede into the landscape. A new amphitheater is tucked into the existing slope of the school with tiered walls made of stone native to the region and orientated to catch the afternoon sun.