Not many people realize that the Red Barn, like the Yurt, originated as a student project. In Spring 1971 (the first year the College was open) a group of students with professor Norton Juster undertook the design for the renovation of the Red Barn. This Humanities and Arts course (HA175) surveyed the site and existing structure, conducted a survey of the Hampshire community to determine its preferences for use of the building, and made plans for its renovation.
The objectives of the project were uncannily like those of the Yurt. The students decided that the College needed a community center, and proposed to use this building to create one. They also desired to "set a pattern or precedent for the continuing involvement of the Hampshire community in the creation of its environment and to help create the impetus for future projects of a similar nature..." (from: The Red Barn: A Center for Student Activity, 1971).
The Red Barn was originally built about 1820 in conjuction with Stiles House, now the Admissions office. It was a post and beam structure designed to house livestock and farm equipment, with hay storage in the loft. The students found that the basic structure was sound, and the space within very appealing. The plans attempted to maintain the character of the space, while opening it up with many large windows. In addition plans were made for plumbing, heating, insulation, and electricity, as well as ensuring compliance with building codes.
Several trustees, impressed with the project, later funded its construction. A professional construction supervisor was hired who worked with student labor, mostly in the summers, and outside subcontractors for the utility work. The project was finally completed in 1974. This multi-purpose space has been in use by the Hampshire community ever since. Unfortunately, its location far from the center of campus has militated against its use as a community center--the College is still in search of that elusive space.