The Mercersburg Academy, Burgin Center for the Arts

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The Mercersburg Academy, Burgin Center for the Arts

A contemporary counterpoint to the historic campus core, the Burgin Center for the Arts establishes a new identity for the performing and visual arts and symbolizes the school’s commitment to promote the arts as a critical part of its rigorous academic curriculum.

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Subtler interventions, none of which rely upon the stagnating reuse of historical architectural form, are occasionally needed to contribute to the evolving hierarchy of meaning and memory in traditional campus contexts.

Todd Schliemann, Design Partner

The building defines the eastern edge of the central open green space on this arcadian campus, which includes an historic Ralph Adams Cram chapel.

The design takes advantage of the site’s steep slope to the west: the building’s height is mitigated, which reinforces its engagement with the landscape and its scale relationship to other campus buildings. Natural materials including teak and Pennsylvania limestone underscore connections with the sylvan landscape.

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Two theaters, recital and chorale halls, theater support spaces, theater shop and visual arts studios for ceramics, digital work, drawing and painting, music practice rooms and dance studios combine in this flexible and sophisticated venue for teaching, performing and encouraging cross-disciplinary exploration in the arts.

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The Simon Theater, whose flexible proscenium affords the intimacy between audience and performers of a traditional configuration as well as apron/forestage variability, supports dance, drama, musical theater, chamber orchestras and solo musicians, and is a place of assembly for the entire school community.

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Acoustics and A/V systems with flexible infrastructure are unusually sophisticated, including equipment that is both performance-based and a teaching tool but typically found only in professional venues.

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A digital audio recording studio with fiber optic links to each performance space as well as audio and video tie lines to the rehearsal rooms enables theater staff to efficiently produce high-quality archival recordings of performances, student recitals or rehearsals.

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Mercersburg, PA
65,000 GSF
600-seat Theater, 120-seat Studio Theater, two Recital and Chorale Halls, Theater Support Spaces, Digital Art Lab and Digital Music Lab, two Dance Studios, four Art Studios including Drawing, Painting, Sculpture and Ceramics Studios, Acting Studio and General Arts Classroom, Practice Rooms, Scene Shop; Costume Shop; Faculty Offices, Lobby.


Ennead Design Team
Todd Schliemann, Timothy Hartung, Damyanti Radheshwar, Charles Brainerd, James Sinks, Charmian Place, Ghiora Aharoni, Andrew Burdick, Steven Chang, Natalie Cheng, Howard Chu, Louisa Clayton, Anthony Guaraldo, Juan Matiz, Kevin Miyamura, Frederick Tang
Jeff Goldberg/Esto, Maxwell Mackenzie


  • 2010
    • Award of Excellence, Society of American Registered Architects/New York Council
    • Award of Excellence, Society of American Registered Architects/Pennsylvania Council
  • 2009
    • Gold Award,
  • 2008
    • USITT Honor Award, United States Institute of Theatre Technology
  • 2007
    • Merit Award, AIA/New York State
  • 2006
    • Excellence in Design Award, AIA/Central Pennsylvania


  • 2008
    • Nobel, Philip. "Not Your Standard Polshek Project" (Metropolis, 7/16/2008)
  • 2007
    • Kearny, Matthew. "Form Meets Function" (Mercersburg Magazine, Spring 2007)
  • 2006
    • Crow, Kelly. "A Cable Mogul's Gift to Mercersburg Academy" (Wall Street Journal, 11/24/2006
  • 2004
    • Belisle, Richard. "Mercersburg Academy to build $21 million performing arts center" (The Herald-Mail, 11/7/2004)