In the 60’s, my Brattleboro Union High School football team scrimmaged with the Keene High School team. They had a reputation for being dirty players who used foul language. That’s the impression of Keene that’s lingered with me for the past forty years. I shouldn’t have been surprised to find that the place has changed since the Johnson Administration. But my recent reintroduction to the city through an invitation to Keene State College has totally changed my perspective. What was once a small teacher’s college housed in a few brick buildings along Main Street has blossomed into a large, vibrant campus that now can honestly be said to define the heart of the city.
Over the past few months I’ve been a guest speaker and adviser to senior students in the architecture department. Their thesis project was to develop a program, and design the buildings and grounds for The Water House, a destination spa and environmental education center being built in western Massachusetts. The studio was sponsored by the New England distributor of Marvin windows, A.W. Hastings. Prizes were offered to the top three designs, judged by me and and a dozen other landscape professionals and regional architects.
The critiques took place in the spanking new TDS Center building, a beautiful, light filled LEED certified space on the north side of campus. For the awards ceremony we dined in a well appointed banquet hall in the Student Center. Peter Hedlund from Sasaki Associates was the keynote speaker.
I was warmly welcomed at Keene State by faculty members and made to feel a full participant by my co-jurors in all the proceedings. Special thanks to Donna Paley, Bartlomiej Sapeta and Chris Rawlings. Also Patrick Gordon and Walter Nicolai. Peter Newman set the tone for a constructive and thought-provoking critique. It was a pleasure to meet students and be included in their process of discovery and design. The “old” Keene of memory has been swept away. Long live the “new” Keene!