Fresh coats of paint that had been applied to the walls of Abbott Dining Hall at the turn of the twenty-first century barely concealed the building’s worn state in 2009. While attending his 50th Class reunion, historian Dr. John Stephan L’ 59 and his wife Barbara saw beyond the building’s current state and embraced the immense possibilities the structure could provide, such as highlighting the School’s history and National Landmark architecture. Through the Stephans’ and the Mario Family Foundation’s generous philanthropic support, the School was able to embark on what would become a seven-year renovation.
Concept Sketch for the Main Dining Room of Abbott Dining Hall by Tackett, 2011
Concept Sketch, Main Corridor of Abbott Dining Hall by Tackett, 2011
Initially conceived as a redecoration project in 2011, a committee comprised of School employees and alumni was formed and they sought the expertise of architect and interior designer John J. Tackett (1954-) to help envision a new look for Abbott Dining Hall. With a portfolio that included clients such as Jackie Kennedy, Tackett’s deep understanding of historic interiors and of Peabody & Stearns’ style ultimately set the tone for Abbott Dining Hall’s final appearance. Hand-drawing and coloring all of his schematics, Tackett aptly suggested that the refurbished main dining room have a patterned terrazzo floor, wood paneled walls, built-in exhibit cases, wooden trusses, and circular “candle-lit” chandeliers. Sadly, as interior design concepts progressed, numerous structural and mechanical problems within the building began to surface. It became apparent to the committee that Abbott Dining Hall could not merely be redecorated – a complete renovation was paramount.
Rendering of the Main Dining Room in Abbott Dining Hall by Kimmel Bogrette Architecture + Site, 2013
Rendering of the Main Corridor in Abbott Dining Hall by Kimmel Bogrette Architecture + Site, 2013
Seeking guidance, the committee formed to oversee Abbott’s transformation contacted Kimmel Bogrette Architecture + Site and ICG International Creative Foodservice Consulting. Both firms began extensive investigations into Abbott Dining Hall and formulated potential solutions to the issues they discovered. Many of these solutions, however, necessitated the prowess, personnel, and resources of a large architectural firm to actualize, especially if the School continued to pursue an historically inspired interior. Kimmel Bogrette Architecture + Site even created a digital rendering of Abbott Dining Hall in a more contemporary style as a reference for the committee’s consideration. The committee stayed steadfast to the Stephans’ wishes and invited the internationally recognized architecture firms of Robert A.M. Stern (1939-), Allan Greenberg (1938-), Graham de Conde Gund (1932-), and Daniella Voith (1954-) to interview for the project. Daniella Voith and her team at the firm of Voith Mactavish were awarded the project’s contract in the spring of 2015 after they proposed raising Abbott Dining Hall’s ceiling by 40 feet and reskinning the building’s exterior to mimic Upper House’s aesthetic.