When St. Stephen's Episcopal School students and faculty returned to their classrooms Aug. 27, they were met with the smell of fresh paint and the sight of new buildings.
Following seven months of construction, the private West Austin boarding and day school, located at 6500 St. Stephens Drive, dedicated two new additions to its 370-acre campus Sept. 2—the Booth Student Center and Buddy Temple '60 Dining Hall, the latter of which is named in honor of the former member of the Texas House of Representatives and Texas Railroad Commission chairman. Donations funded the $8 million, two-building project as part of St. Stephen's Frame the Future Campaign, Director of Advancement Christine Aubrey said. The $25 million campaign created new faculty residences, a dormitory, art studios and a pedestrian green in 2012 and will include a future athletic addition, she said.
"While the Chapel at St. Stephen's forms the heart of the campus, the new Booth Student Center and Buddy Temple Dining Hall are destined to become the hub of activity," Head of School Bob Kirkpatrick said. "These buildings will become the common space for this uncommon school community."
Most of the school's original buildings were designed by architectural firm Fehr and Granger in the mid-century modern style, Aubrey said. The new facilities were constructed by local firm Andersson-Wise in a similar style—with the new designs blending into the campus' surrounding buildings, she said.
"The goal of these new buildings is to enrich our campus and give students a chance to interact with other students and faculty outside of the classroom," Aubrey said. "This [goal] is very connected to [school founder] Bishop John Hines' vision for people of all socioeconomic levels to live together, understand one another and work out their differences in a community."
Aubrey said the school's student center has historically functioned in conjunction with another building and was never a stand-alone site until now. The new dining hall, the school's third cafeteria build, was designed to capture the identical views of the school's first dining hall originally built in 1950, she said.
The new 13,869-square-foot dining hall features floor-to-ceiling windows with Hill Country views and includes a wok station, extended salad bar, sandwich bar and a healthy snack depot that is available to students and faculty when the serving stations are closed, Aubrey said. The hall serves approximately 1,500 meals daily, she said.
The student center encompasses 9,814 square feet and features a study commons, a conversation room, a game room, a media room with a flat-screen television and offices for the school's residential dean, diversity director and head of counseling.
Aubrey said about 40 faculty members and their families as well as 170 students in the school's boarding program live on campus. In 2013–14, 680 students will matriculate at St. Stephen's, which reflects the school's ongoing growth, she said.
From 1990 to 2000, the school doubled in size as the student body increased from 325 to 650 students, Aubrey said. The increased enrollment and age of the existing original school buildings provided the impetus for the school's recent campaigns, she said.
The project's site planner and landscape architect, Joan Hyde, Resource Design, said she found the gradient differences in the area's terrain troublesome, especially when tasked to create inviting open spaces and highlight the native scenery.
"It was a challenge to save as many existing live oaks as possible and place the buildings to capture the hills and river views to the west," Hyde said. "This dining hall has one of the best views in the city."