Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Waitsfield, Vermont offers over 80 hands-on courses per year in design, construction, woodworking, and architectural craft and offers a variety of courses concentrating in sustainable design. Now in its 35th year, Yestermorrow is one of the only design/build schools in the country, teaching both design and construction skills. Our hands-on 1-day to 3-week workshops, certificate programs and semester programs are taught by top architects, builders, and craftspeople from across the country. For people of all ages and experience levels, from novice to professional.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Celebrating the Past and Planning for Yestermorrow’s Future

By Kate Stephenson, Executive Director

35th Anniversary attendees
On July 18th, over 200 alumni, instructors, friends and family of Yestermorrow gathered to help celebrate the school’s 35th Anniversary. The day was filled with opportunities to reconnect with each other, see projects around the Mad River Valley, talk about Yestermorrow’s legacy in teaching design, check out improvements around campus, and hear about plans for the future.

Larsen River House
In the morning, a school bus and van filled with over 50 participants headed out to visit five homes around the Mad River Valley as part of our Innovative Homes Tour. Started in 2003 as a fundraiser for Yestermorrow’s Scholarship Fund, the Homes Tour has been a favorite with many local architecture lovers. One highlight was a visit to Jon and Mary Larsen’s home on the banks of the Mad River in Moretown. This zero net energy home designed by Maclay Architects was built in 2008-2009 and features green roofs, a 12.6 kW photovoltaic array and solar hot water system, and amazing views down into the river.

Sylvia Smith, architect
Back on campus, while the Timberframing class worked diligently out in the Hangar to raise their timber frame, while John Connell moderated a colloquium of architects and designers including John Anderson, Sibyl Harwood, Ted Montgomery and Sylvia Smith. The goal of the panel was to “create a vocabulary and/or grammar for people not professionally trained in design”. Panelists attempted to answer the following questions: Do you think a more accessible design discourse would have an appreciable impact on the way the school educates or the projects it embraces? What are the most misused (and thus misunderstood) terms of the professional designer, architect, artists’ lexicon? What are the biggest challenges to lofting a more accessible design conversation at the Yestermorrow School? The resulting conversation engaged many members of the audience. You can read some of John Anderson’s comments on the Yestermorrow blog.

Prickly Mountain founding members
Later in the day architect Duo Dickinson moderated a panel on the design/build history of Prickly Mountain featuring a variety of Prickly “founders” who still live nearby, including Dave Sellers, Dorothy Tod, Candy Barr, Richard Travers, Bill Maclay, Jito Coleman, and Randy and Nancy Taplin. We heard about the early days of Dave recruiting architecture students, offering them room and board and $500 for the summer to come up to Vermont to design and build. Duo asked whether something like Prickly Mountain could ever happen in this day and age and the consensus was definitely no- that between the cost of land and building materials these days it would be nearly impossible to replicate a similar type of situation. 

Preliminary Landscape Plan
After the Prickly panel we gathered in the Main Studio for an update on Yestermorrow’s master planning process. John Connell spoke about the history of purchasing the 38-acre Alpen Inn property back in 1990, and I recapped the more recent 5 years of master planning history. In 2011-2012 we worked closely with the Regenesis Group (Bill Reed, John Boecker and Joel Glanzberg) to set the framework for our master planning process, explore the site and our place in the Mad River Valley, and develop a vision, purpose and principles to guide our work going forward. Since then we have created a “Core Team” made up of members of the various stakeholder groups that has been working to develop the plans in more detail, engage with experts in areas of stormwater, wastewater and systems design, and move the plan forward through town and state permitting. All that preparation has brought us to the exciting point where we expect to break ground on the initial infrastructure work next spring and are ready to start designing the first building in the plan—a shop classroom space. We sent out an RFP looking for design/build teams in the spring and received 5 strong proposals. We are excited to announce that we have selected Bast & Rood Architects, along with New England Construction Company to work with us on the first project. Both Mac Rood and Rob Bast (the firm’s two principals) have had a long history of teaching here at Yestermorrow, Mac has served many years on the Yestermorrow Board, including as President, and both have been very active serving the local community and working with groups like ours on collaborative design processes. Paul Sipple is an experienced contractor, and recent graduate of our Passive House Builders Training. He and his crew specialize in commercial structures and high performance building. They have also brought in Yestermorrow board member and instructor Adam Cohen of PassivScience to consult on potential Passive House certification. 

After the big announcement, Mac Rood took the stage to tell everyone about the process for stakeholder input on the new shop design. We’ll kick off with an introductory public meeting on September 2nd, and then hold a series of mini charrettes divided into different subject topics including envelope, mechanical and energy systems, aesthetics, student involvement, and more to be determined. 

Jacob Mushlin at Yeopardy
A highlight of the evening hour was the unveiling of “Yeopardy” led by former intern and instructor, Jacob Mushlin. He led five teams through a series of trivia questions related to Yestermorrow history, architectural terms, notable personalities of Yestermorrow and more. Then in the second stage of the “YesterOlympics” teams raced to hammer in nails, de-nail the boards, and measure accurately without any measuring implements. Lots of fun was had by both participants and audience members.

We finished the evening with great music from the Eames Brothers Band while sipping local beers, enjoying amazing food, and watching the sun set over the valley (before the torrential downpour started!). Inside we watched old slides and movies from the YesterArchive and had a chance to catch up with many old friends. It was certainly an anniversary to remember.

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