It’s finally here.
An ode to Hawken’s past and a manifestation of its future, the new Stirn Hall demands attention. Boasting huge classrooms, immaculate hallways, and the most innovative technology available, there is no doubt that the past century of Hawken’s existence has culminated in the school becoming one of the most innovative and advanced in the country. Yet, when faced with the abundance of resources Stirn Hall provides, a question still remains: What exactly do we do with it? A simple walk through the building can get thoughts churning about the sheer quantity of possibilities this building provides.
The language and humanities classes are located just to the left of the main entrance. Walking through the classrooms, there is little resemblance to the science hallway from last year but the overall structure is still recognizable. On their way to class, students pass by a couple of studying spaces illuminated with natural sunlight as well as offices of humanities teachers. The language teachers have migrated their offices into the space that was the Pronto Room. Of course, there is no shortage of glass windows that enclose the teacher offices to allow people a glance inside. Stepping inside a classroom, students see natural lighting and an enlarged space which can accommodate thirty students quite comfortably. These classrooms are equipped with brightly colored tables and chairs that differ greatly from the traditional wooden furniture from last year. The intense color and contemporary design of the furniture gives off an avant-garde feeling that encourages the forward-focused education of Hawken. The tables can easily be moved, which is very helpful in tailoring the classroom to the teacher and students’ liking. Although there are many new features to the rooms, Hawken has kept their signature podium, clock, and “Fair Play” sign which blend in seamlessly with the new equipment. Humanities teacher Dr. Ialacci is most excited about the design of Stirn Hall’s classrooms as he says “We can use classrooms as a laboratory instead of a lecture hall.” Dr. Ialacci’s idea of straying away from traditional lecture methods is shared by Mr. Cleminshaw who describes classes as being increasingly “interdisciplinary” with the many resources of Stirn Hall. Students can see their projects come to life with the improved Fabrication Lab and Media Studio. Stirn Hall has shown the progressive education that Hawken aims to provide, and, as Mr. Cleminshaw explains, is an “opportunity to represent Hawken’s mission in physical form.”
As students make their way towards the Science Building, natural light floods the hallway and soaks into the math offices. The math rooms, much like the rest of the building, have clear, glass walls, allowing the atmosphere to remain bright and open. Mr. Marlowe, a math teacher, comments on the beneficial impacts Stirn Hall will have on his classes, stating that the new classrooms are more interactive and accessible “Students will use the building for the best,” he says. “There are a lot of different spaces for different students.” The amount and variety of space is clearly a huge factor when considering the benefits of the new building. Not only do students have a better environment for learning within the classroom, many believe that the capacious nature of Stirn Hall is highly conducive to learning at all times. Continuing down the hall, the math wing transforms into the Science Building. According to Mr. Shurtz, a science teacher, the best feature of the building is flexible space that can be used for different purposes such as working with students.. Dr. Keltner, another science teacher, agrees, explaining how, “In grad school, the amount of study space was key to developing new ideas”. When regarding the benefits to the Science Department individually, Dr. Keltner mentions that the different chemistry and biology labs, windows, and balcony will undoubtedly enhance the learning experience.
Although the start of school is rough for all students throughout the world, this year, Hawken students and alumni are excited for the return to school to experience Stirn Hall. Just from the physical features of Stirn Hall, the building looks much more professional and modern with a multitude of large windows and sharp, precise angles that Izzy Capulong ‘20 describes as an “inspiration for art students.” Ashley Futon ’19, thinks the new building provides a “fresher environment in which students can learn” which is certainly shown through the variety of windows splattered across the building that allow ample sunlight and crisp air. The assortment of glass is indeed a point of interest as Nihaal Rahman ’17 says the windows gives Hawken a good representation of an “open community”. The contemporary architecture of the building is also very expressive of the progressive and forward-thinking education philosophy of Hawken. Alumni Ms. May-Curry ’11 describes Stirn Hall as “A huge leap-forward for an incredible student body.” Although current students of Hawken can now experience Stirn Hall to its fullest, alumni have felt both happiness and sadness for the building. Karen Yao who graduated last year comments that Hawken now “represents the new generation and one that was lost.” Similarly, Ms. May-Curry fondly misses the “rag-tag” imperfections that the old building used to have. Although both alumni and current students miss the old Hawken building and the memories that were created within it, Stirn Hall will become home to even more progressive educational adventures.
Stirn Hall leaves every person who enters with an urge, a strong desire to strive, to learn, and to create. In some respects, Stirn Hall leads by example; by intertwining the old and the new, the building creates an atmosphere of growth, and serves as a call to do. With each branching hallway, studio, and classroom, Stirn Hall represents the ideals James A. Hawken established a century ago, in a grand physical representation of one-hundred year old aspirations finally coming to light. Mr. Tate, the Language Department Chair, reflects on the past year of development, summarizing the nature of Stirn Hall perfectly. “The best part of construction is watching how a dream is built. Now we get to live in the dream”.