Rendering of Dever Auditorium

MDS/Miller Dyer Spears is an architecture, planning and interior design firm based in Boston. We lead with innovative, conscious, and enduring design ideas: a creative dance between form and function. Working with institutions, schools, public agencies, developers, and communities, we specialize in projects that promote innovation, learning, creativity, and wellness.

One of our current projects involves the renovation of a 1955 keystone building at Westfield State University. Located in Western Massachusetts, WSU was founded in 1839 by Horace Mann as the first community co-educational college in America without hindrance to gender, race, or economic class.

Rendering of Main Entrance of Parenzo Hall at Westfield State University

The renovation of Parenzo Hall encompasses both the exterior and interior architecture of the three-story building. The scope includes a new laboratory for collaboration called the CoLab and a new Center for Student Success and Engagement, in addition to regular and specialty classrooms, gym, academic offices, and modernization of Dever Auditorium, the University’s main performance space.

Our primary objective for the renovation project was to develop a timeless and graceful design that balanced connectiveness with a sense of uniqueness, fostering exchange and interaction between students and faculty.

In Dever Auditorium, we reworked the entrances and modified the configuration of the AV control room to flow more with the overall shape of the auditorium. We also created an accessible ramp with punched window openings to establish a visual connection between the ramp and the auditorium. A new cross aisle and stage access from the ramp will be added for universal use of the theater and stage. 

Dever Auditorium Materials

Rendering of New Accessible Ramp

In an effort to keep original elements—including the stepped ceiling and stage—we wrapped the walls in slat wood strip panels and painted the sections in-between dark grey, conveying a vocabulary of volume and void. The ceiling and flooring incorporate this same dark color scheme to recede and make the stage the focal point.

From the entrance, where the ceiling height is the lowest, to the proscenium opening, we increased the height of the wood panels gradually, following the same stepped rhythm as the ceiling to heighten the space and bring a sense of organic grandeur

Rendering of Dever Auditorium

High-performance and high-quality products are central to our design concept. We carefully curated the project’s materials to support the project’s LEED Silver certification goal and help lower the carbon footprint of the project and the University. Accordingly, we opted for a CO2 negative carpet tile for Dever Auditorium, Parenzo Hall’s most prominent space. The Embodied Beauty™ collection from Interface inspired by the Japanese aesthetics of minimalism, renewal, and the organic beauty of the natural world lives up to its name and shows that the pursuits of beautiful design and sustainability are inseparable.

Working under the direction of the Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) and WSU, MDS is proud to support the implementation of this CO2 negative material and set a precedent for public and private projects alike. With our forward-thinking clients, we hope to create a basis for healthy, efficient, and cost-effective green design and construction, as part of our shared commitment to the environment for a healthier tomorrow.