Bentley School's New Commons Comes Alive

Well Worth Waiting For: Bentley's New Commons Comes Alive

Bentley School Winter Magazine, 2019

Step into the new Bentley School Commons throughout the school day and it’s unlikely you’ll see the same thing twice. 

Designed as a flexible central gathering space, and completed at the start of this school year, the new Commons at Bentley’s Lafayette campus was built be to an open and accessible springboard for every aspect of campus life.

Step into the space in the morning and you might find students sheltered from the fall chill take on assignments in groups, books and papers sprawling. Come back 45 minutes later and the cultural gravity of the latest viral video has drawn a small solar system of students into orbit around a laptop, laughter echoing out into the quad. Promptly at lunchtime the Commons becomes a bustling eatery - faculty and students grabbing hot plates of food with friends, the hall crackling with energy. As lunch fades, the space seems to exhale and take on a new life – a tutoring session, some office hours with a faculty member, soliloquies rebound off the vaulted ceiling as theater rehearsal get underway. 

The unique ability of the Commons to organically expand and contract to suit the occupants is a central design tenant thoughtfully reverberated through every facet of the structure and space.

The performing area for the theater arts also incorporates considered acoustics for Jazz band and choral performances. A flexible new projector setup can serve up movie nights for students as easily as it can dish out Ted Talks from guest speakers. The professional kitchen serves delicious food five days a week to students and faculty while doubling as a culinary classroom open to faculty’s lesson plans. You might have learned how to order a crepe in French class, but in the new Commons you’ll learn how to make the perfect one as well – while learning in a collaborative learning space. 

A veritable Room of Requirement, the new Commons’ ability to meet the needs of the community goes well beyond its physical attributes, with the thoughtful evolution of the building planned from its conception over a decade.

The inspiration for a multi-use central space began in 1999 as the Board of Trustees oversaw the creation of an all-compassing campus in Lafayette. The Commons was a central aspect of this core design, built from the ground up to grow mindfully with the school’s budget as Bentley established itself at Lafayette campus. Future-focused infrastructure such as plumbing, electrical and expansive safety needs were laid in the foundation from the outset, with a specific eye to the future. Although initially more ground work, the long-term vision and comprehensive strategic planning on the part of the Board and administration allowed Bentley to continue growing the space over a decade to meet campus needs while saving handsomely on new building costs.

This school year, the multitudinous benefits of that plan are coming to fruition. The opening of the new Commons this year - with a fully functioning cafeteria, theater, culinary classroom, study space, and assembly hall - marks a major milestone for the Bentley community.

With the school’s strategic building plan and state-of-the-art multi-use Commons in full flight comes a deep appreciation for those that made it possible. 

An unequivocal keystone to the Commons’ success remains a philanthropic practice and culture throughout the campus community that empowers and makes manifest long-term investment in our community’s education. This kind of funding is a special and rare occurrence for a K-12 school, especially a non-profit independent one like Bentley that relies on philanthropy to support its educational mission. At Bentley, we rely on our community of parents and alumni for the incredible support that makes not just the new Commons, but all initiatives in education possible for our students.

Indeed, because of the strong contributions to the Annual Fund, Bentley is not only able to reap the tremendous benefits of the strategic plans sowed years ago—but is able to forge and build new ones that will pay dividends in every aspect of learning for students and graduates for decades.