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Humble Building, Grand Students: Scenes from a Nashville School Tour

By Net Assets posted 03-13-2018 10:43 AM

University School of Nashville, stairwell art

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University School of Nashville — one of five schools on tour — reminded 2018 Annual Meeting attendees that old buildings can be renewed again and again.

Above: An iconic interior stairwell at USN was painted more than 30 years ago by a USN alumnus on the school's original plaster walls. All photos by Mael Pack.

Vince Durnan wasn't exaggerating. "We use this place really hard," said the director of University School of Nashville last Tuesday, in introducing several dozen business officers and other independent school operational leaders to the historic K-12 independent school in downtown Nashville. With just under 1,100 students sharing 230,000 square feet of space under a single roof, that's "210 square feet per kid," Durnan added. To the visitors, the tour of USN modeled how a landlocked urban school can use space efficiently, creatively and in ways that inspire learning at every level. 

The visit to USN was one of five school tours offered to attendees of NBOA's 2018 Annual Meeting. The other schools were Ensworth School, Father Ryan High School, The Harpeth Hall School and Montgomery Bell Academy. 

Prior to beginning their tours, the NBOA visitors saw a brief video history of USN, created by a member of the school's technology staff.

"The building is humble, but the students are grand," said Teresa Standard, USN's chief financial officer.

University School of Nashville exterior
USN's 1925 building, directly across the street from the campus of Vanderbilt University, was designed in the classical style by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White. 

University School of Nashville NBOA tour
Guests from NBOA mingled and learned more about USN before and after the tour.The auditorian was rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1954. 

University School of Nashville addition
Even while expanding and moderning the space, USN has been intentional about preserving the original structure. Many exterior walls are now interior (red brick) walls.

University School of Nashville library
The Hassenfeld Library "is both a place and a portal designed to serve and inspire the entire school community," according to

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