The Governor’s Academy | Byfield, Massachusetts

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The Governor’s Academy is a leading academic institution and the oldest continually operating boarding school in America. Since its founding, the school had grown organically from schoolhouse to campus. Yet, on its 250th anniversary there was a clear need for a design framework to inform thoughtful campus growth. Working closely with school architect David Neuman, VITAL and the Office of Cheryl Barton began writing this framework by studying the school’s roots in early New England villages. VITAL found that these villages’ growth model honored what is known as Dunbar’s number: communities of individuals sharing resources tend to grow to 150 before splintering to start new, smaller nodes that then grew into separate towns. The Governor’s Academy has over 450 students and faculty but only one community amenity core; our recommendation was to create a new node to anchor the upper campus. This organizing principle allowed the campus to remain connected without imposing a radial or axial system in the pastoral landscape.

Interestingly, this innate human logic for community growth and organization is also reflected in typical commercial office floor plates, which tend to support the 150 person Dunbar number.

“Working with VITAL on projects has proven to be a rewarding experience for both the clients and the planning teams in that they bring both a high level of energy and fresh interdisciplinary ideas to the work effort. They listen well, follow through in a timely fashion, and generate engaging outcomes.”
– David J. Neuman, Architect for The Governor’s Academy

“The Governor’s Academy 250th Anniversary Video”

Video published in 2012 by The Governor’s Academy