Voith & Mactavish Architects creates a new dining hall for students at Millbrook School in New York.
dining hall at millbrook school

The new dining room is double height at the center with lower ceilings on the side aisles. The chairs, tables, and lighting were all custom designed.

Project: Millbrook School Dining Hall, Millbrook, NY
Design Architect: Voith & Mactavish Architects LLP, Philadelphia, Pa.: Daniela Holt Voith, FAIA, LEED AP, Partner; Sennah Loftus, LEED AP, Associate Principal

Drive into the 800-acre campus at Millbrook, a co-ed boarding school 90 miles north of New York City, and you won’t see the dining hall. It sits quietly in the northeast corner of the campus, and unless you remembered dining in the old Prum Hall, you wouldn’t know that it is a new building.

That was the goal that the Head of School and Trustees had in mind when they brought in Voith & Mactavish Architects to design a new dining hall. Built in 1934, Prum Hall, while quaint, was no longer large enough. The entire student body couldn’t fit into it at one time and it had become dark and noisy.

The new 15,000-square-foot facility includes a large, 60 by 80-foot double-height dining room that seats 400, plus a kitchen and servery and a sunlit north-south corridor connecting the existing, now restored Prum Hall, with the new dining hall. It is sited to create a new courtyard and to provide views to both the courtyard and the adjacent farm that serves the kitchen.

“You cannot see the dining hall when you enter the campus,” says Daniela Holt Voith, FAIA, partner. “It’s a hidden surprise. All of the buildings we have built there feature the architecture of discovery. They look smaller than they are, and they feel like they fit with the original architecture.”

Dining Hall at Millbrook

A view of the servery and open kitchen, located just off the farm area.

And VMA has had quite an impact on the campus, starting with the new Holbrook Arts Center, followed by the renovations of both Abbott Hall dormitory and the iconic Barn Student Center, then the new Hamilton Math & Science Center, new Koenigsberger Hall dormitory for girls, and now the new dining hall.

“One of the design imperatives from the trustees and head of school was they always wanted the school to feel the same,” Voith adds. “They want the alums to come back and say the school looks just the same but better.”

Building Community

The primary goal with this project was to have a dining room that could accommodate the student body. “One of the biggest drivers was that the existing Prum dining room didn’t accommodate the entire school; they couldn’t meet as a community during mealtimes. And at Millbrook, they all eat in the same room three times a day,” says Sennah Loftus. “They wanted the new dining room to feel familiar but be able to accommodate a much larger group—400 students and faculty and families.”

With those goals in mind, quite a bit of time was spent in the planning stage. “There was a lot of thinking on this project,” says Voith. In addition, before construction started, a facilities building and old garages had to be demolished. The area that is now the courtyard had been a parking area.

The new dining room is large enough to seat the entire student body of 310 plus faculty and guests and it is often used for special events and announcements. Double-height (22 feet) at the center with lower height side aisles, it is lit by windows on both sides and large (approximately 5 feet in diameter) LED custom chandeliers and some hidden uplighting.

Every effort was made to create a quiet, comfortable environment. The floor is made of ½-inch thick cork and the walls and ceiling are paneled with acoustic materials. In addition, the chairs feature glides so they can be moved without scraping noises. Meanwhile terrazzo and slate flooring were selected for the servery and entry corridor for durability and elegance.

Millbrook School corridor

The 12 foot 6 inches wide corridor connecting Prum Hall to the new dining room is lined with windows to provide sunlight and views. The terrazzo flooring was selected for its durability and elegance.

Every Detail Taken Into Consideration

The dining room furniture, the tables and chairs, were custom designed by the VMA team, working with the suppliers. “We spent a lot of time thinking about the tables,” says Loftus. “Should they be round or oval or rectangular. Further, what is the right amount of people at each table—6 or 8 or 10?” Ultimately, they settled on 9 by 3-foot rectangular tables. What’s different about these is that the tops can be tilted up, the legs can be lifted onto skateboards and then rolled out, to then allow for nesting of the tables while the dining room is used for other functions. These tables are now known as the Daniela table and are available from the manufacturer.”

Also custom designed, the chairs feature the Millbrook School seal and are stackable so they can also be removed and stored as needed. Similarly, this chair is called The Millbrook Chair, and it too is available from the manufacturer.

The corridor features the second tallest tower on the campus, with an interior ceiling height of 40 feet. The window lined cupola serves as a focal point and where the multiple entries into the dining hall converge. The chapel has the tallest tower on the campus. “They felt this building was the single most important space after the chapel,” says Voith. “It’s where they all come together, where they build community. The cupola is a response to the context of the campus and the importance of the dining hall.”

Voith and Mactavish site plan

The new dining room is located to the north of Prum Hall in what had been open fields. The addition of the dining hall and connecting corridor created a new courtyard for the campus. Plan: Voith & Mactavish.

The custom chandelier in the cupola coordinates with those in the dining room, and is quite large, approximately 6 feet in height.

On the exterior, the design team took great pains to match the brick to the original brick in Prum Hall. “We studied the existing brick and detailing of Prum Hall because the new building runs right into it. We did a lot to match the brick color, coursing, and specific details like the quoining and water table. Ultimately we used a compilation of brick lines,” adds Loftus.

Completed in the fall of 2016 at a cost of $9.7 million, the new facility has been a great success. Describing the first lunch in the new dining room, the Headmaster noted, “We had the first seated lunch in over 40 years at Millbrook School today. 312 students and 60 faculty sat at one time and the space worked exactly as we intended. It was elegant, functional and quiet …. Yes, quiet.”

See another Millbrook School project from Voith & Mactavish Architects.

Key Suppliers

General Contractor and Custom Millwork: Consigli Construction Management, Pleasant Valley, NY
Custom Light Fixtures: Deep Landing Workshop, Chestertown, MA
Custom Furnishings: Thos. Moser, Auburn, ME
Custom Chairs: Eustis Chair, Ashburnham, MA
Custom Terrazzo: Yorie Tile & Terrazzo, Inc., Allentown, PA
Mason: James McGowan & Sons Masonry, Inc., Kingston, NY
Doors, Windows & Hardware: Sanford & Hawley, Inc., Unionville, CT
Flooring: Flooring Solutions of New York, Inc., Nanuet, NY
Cork Flooring: Expanko, Exton, PA
Slate Flooring: Buckingham Slate Company, Arvonia, VA
Windows and Doors: Marvin Windows and Doors, Warroad, MN
Metal Roofing: Englert, Perth Amboy, NJ
Slate Roofing: Evergreen Slate Co., Inc., Middle Granville, NY
Brick: Watsontown Brick Co., Watsontown, PA 

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