Case Study

Master Planning Across Generations:   The Chapin School

In a school there are several sub-plans such as academic facilities plan (classrooms, libraries, athletics, performing arts), deferred maintenance plan (roofs, mechanical plant), landscape plan, and student life plan.  Our aim is to create an integrated master plan through a process that draws on the overlapping of differing objectives into a holistic fabric.  A fully integrated master plan combines strategic planning with an analysis of the context into a flexible space, time, and financial framework.


The Chapin School wanted a Master Plan to put new initiatives in place that would allow them to continue in their competitive place by offering the best facilities they could.

Chapin is a K-12 independent school for girls and young women. It has existed at its current site since the original 4 story school house was built in 1929.  As the enrollment grew and the demand for more up to date teaching facilities expanded we were fortunate to be with them through 18 years of planning new spaces, and creating a vision for their academic strategic plans.  We had previously designed the science center, library, and black box theater.

The culture within the building has always been to embrace the traditions within that have organically grown from the original schoolhouse.   Although the building has changed its appearance on the exterior the interior would evolve around the core traditions and enhance the culture around the evolving academic program and the evolving world around the schoolhouse.

The Project

Initiatives & Objectives

Create a new full-court gymnasium capable of accommodating other large gatherings.

Create a new social gathering place, seminar rooms, club rooms, for the high school-age kids.

Create design which can be approved by the local Community Board and the Board of Standards and Appeals.

Provide a lunch room for the youngest children.

Create new middle school project rooms.

Develop a Roadmap schedule to show how the project could be built safely around the academic schedule.

The Challenges

Key Issues

Structural reinforcing for the added load on the building is physically disruptive, time consuming and costly so how can the weight be reduced to a minimum and located where it can most economically be carried?.

A special permit will be required to vary from the Zoning requirements so working with local residents and the Community Board are crucial..

The new addition must tie sensitively into the existing architecture.

The Process

Our process focused early on interviewing the various members of our client group to gather the sub-sets of needs – academic, physical plant, athletics, divisional, and to try to relate them and recognize where we could economize through overlapping requirements.  We collaborated with land use attorneys and contractors to develop a road map of how the plan could develop.  Through successive discussions we integrated further requirements and refinements to the plan.  In our case, the collaboration with several generations at Chapin gave us a more trenchant and incisive view.

The Result

Master Plan Findings and Vision


A vision was created for each space that was shaped by the ambitions of the faculty, students, and the Board.

Many complicated parts made it difficult to envision the process by which the projects could be completed, allowing sufficient time for fund raising. We created a “Roadmap” for the vision, illustrating the design, special zoning approvals process, and construction timing around the academic schedule.

We explored several options and found that this Master Plan could achieve the primary objectives while minimizing cost and interruption to the school schedule.

The project would utilize sustainable features in the finishes and energy systems.