MGA Partners Honored with Historic Preservation Award

Share Article

A Pennsylvania historical society recognizes MGA Partners Architects for its preservation of Wilson Hall, the founding building at The Haverford School.

Wilson Hall, Haverford School -- MGA Partners

MGA Partners Architects earned a 2012 HARB Award for historic preservation and new construction of Wilson Hall at The Haverford School, Haverford, Pa.

The design knits the historic building back into the living fabric of the campus, rather than leaving it a functionally irrelevant fragment.

MGA Partners Architects announced today that it has received the top 2012 historic preservation award and a special citation for “compatible new construction” for one of the firm’s independent school projects. This adds to the firm’s long list of professional honors for both sensitive historic restorations and adaptive reuse as well as new buildings, on the heels of a Design Excellence award from the Pennsylvania Chapter of AIA last month.

The latest honor, known informally as the HARB Award, is given jointly by the Historical Architectural Review Board (HARB) and Historical Commission of Lower Merion Township, Pa. It was bestowed in recognition of the firm’s successful renovation and addition to Wilson Hall at The Haverford School, Haverford, Pa. MGA Partners won the award for both the renovation and for Compatible New Construction of a modern, curtain-walled addition.

“This exemplary addition improves connections and relationships between the historic buildings and later campus buildings, spaces and walks on all sides,” said the HARB Award presenter, Michael James, architect and commission vice-chair. “In doing so, it knits the historic building back into the living fabric of the campus rather than leaving it a respected but functionally irrelevant fragment.”

A Second Honor
In addition to the 2012 HARB Award for Historic Preservation and New Construction from Lower Merion Township, MGA Partners also won the same award in 2008 for its work on Dalton Hall at Bryn Mawr College. Embodying the Gothic architecture of the campus, MGA Partners retained the traditional schist and brick exterior façade and added a new octagonal glass tower that “pays homage to the stone towers on campus and hosts the main stair,” wrote a critic.

The 2012 honor – presented at a May 8 dinner – serves to further emphasize the Philadelphia-based architecture and planning firm’s expertise both in thoughtful preservation of historic buildings and in forward-thinking campus architecture.

Designed at the turn of the last century by iconic Philadelphia architects Fred Furness and Allen Evans, Wilson Hall was the founding building of the independent school’s campus and has become the most important physical symbol of The Haverford School’s long tradition. It was initially slated for demolition, but the building was instead adapted to new uses and sensitively blended with a sophisticated new modernist building that houses the Upper School.

“Wilson Hall offers an example of how architectural tradition can be a rudder that guides us and not an anchor that holds us back,” says Daniel Kelley, FAIA, senior partner with MGA Partners and the project’s lead designer. “By reimagining this building in a broader context, we were able to maintain a campus-defining touchstone while providing new spaces that meet the school’s modern academic and administrative needs.”

An Eye on the Environment
One of the key design goals for the new Upper School was to ensure that modern, 87,000-square-foot building achieved LEED Gold certification as defined by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. Achieving LEED Gold in a new building can be a challenge, but the challenge multiplies when also incorporating a century-old existing structure.

Ultimately, LEED Gold certification was awarded to Wilson Hall and the Upper School. The schist stone building was gut-renovated, and a below-grade drainage system was installed to address moisture infiltration issues. Windows that offer historic accuracy yet modern insulating properties were installed as was new insulation for the exterior walls. Modern HVAC, sprinkler, electrical and lighting systems provide further energy efficiency.

Finally, and perhaps more important, is not what went in the building but what didn’t become construction waste. By adapting the building to a new use instead of demolishing it, more than 2.5 million tons of construction wasted was diverted from the landfill.

Recognizing Architectural Contribution
For the work done by MGA Partners and the investment made by The Haverford School, the HARB Award for Historic Preservation and New Construction – Lower Merion Township, 2012 holds particular significance to the community.

“Because it is impossible to mandate such a skillful end-result through regulation it is important to recognize the vital contributions made to our community by projects like this one,” said the HARB Award presenter, Michael James.

“It gives me particular pleasure to have the opportunity to present this year’s 2012 HARB Award for Compatible New Construction honoring The Haverford School, Headmaster Joseph Cox, and their project team led by MGA Partners, for the addition to, and renovation of Furness and Evans-designed Wilson Hall,” said the presenter.


About MGA Partners Architects
MGA Partners Architects is a nationally recognized, award-winning architecture practice based in Philadelphia. The firm is distinguished for combining design excellence with long-term value, and more than half of the firm's architects are LEED Accredited Professionals. Its emphasis on exceptional design is reflected in an array of significant awards and publications. MGA's collaborative approach results in long-term relationships with clients, which is demonstrated through repeat commissions for prominent universities, the federal government, and public institutions. Established in 1958 as Mitchell/Giurgola Architects, the firm reorganized as MGA Partners Architects in 1990 and has since completed over $600 million of work throughout the United States For more information, please visit

About The Lower Merion Historical Society
The Lower Merion Historical Society is an organization dedicated to "Preserving Our Past For The Future." This is accomplished by stewardship of local history, education of the community, preservation of historic resources and outreach to promote awareness of the cultural heritage of the Township of Lower Merion and the Borough of Narberth.

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Chris Sullivan
Sullivan Mumford
Email >
Visit website