Solebury School Abbe Science Center
New Modern Science Classroom Building Blends into Nature-Filled Campus
Solebury Township, PA

Project Type

The Solebury School occupies 99 rural acres in Solebury Township, at the base of Solebury Mountain, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. It is a 98-year-old private preparatory school for grades 9 through 12 that has an enrollment of 235 students. The school serves both boarding and day students in an environment that supports and responds to a multicultural, coed student population.

Connection to the Outdoors

Because of its age and size, the school has been able to maintain its quiet, country, character and intimate scale associated with small, individual buildings set randomly amongst the trees and meadows. The connection to the outdoors is one of the most valued aspects of the experience at Solebury for both students and teachers. Preserving the quality of the environment as it has been was a mandate from the school in the master plan.

The Concept

Hillier was retained to assist with the campus master plan which called for new up-to-date science classrooms and labs that would be fully mediated and large enough to allow research projects to remain in place for periods of time.  Its program of four science labs with combined classrooms and four mathematics classrooms were to meet the highest competitive standards in pedagogy and technology, including sustainable design. The connection to the outdoors is one of the most valued aspects of the experience at Solebury and was critical to maintain.

Challenges and Solutions

Abbe Science Center is a one-story, L-shaped building that exploits the N-S and E-W axis for introduction of daylighting and passive solar design.  At the elbow of the building is a two-story open area, which serves as a student study lounge.  The building is sited in the center of the campus in a naturally sloping grade allowing the floor elevation to match that of the neighboring buildings.


The first modern building on the campus, construction is steel frame which is exposed throughout the interior spaces. The building is clad in a natural cedar “corn-crib,” modeled after the familiar farm icon, and panelized to accept ten-foot-high sliding glass patio doors.