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Sunday, April 11, 2021

New Saints Union to serve school as place of community gathering, communion

All Saints’ Episcopal School

9700 Saints Circle

Fort Worth 76108



All Saints’ Episcopal School’s three segments – the lower, middle and upper schools – have shared the same campus since 2006, but the students are about to have a new gathering place to break bread, study and congregate together.

A 30,000-square-foot, $16.5 million student union is under construction on the campus in west Fort Worth. The project broke ground in May and is expected to be completed in time for the start of the fall 2018 school year.

The union will connect the lower, middle and upper school buildings through its semicircular, 190-degree design that circles the bell tower and faces the chapel.


“It’s not only a gathering place, but it’s almost symbolic of arms reaching around the community holistically,” said Rusty Reid, who is in his first year as school board president. “All Saints’ is centered around the Episcopal culture and the Episcopal church and I just love the fact that when you’re in that union you’re facing the chapel and it provides an element of a reminder of why we’re all here.”

The placement of the union was intentional, according to Tad Bird, head of school, who explained that the circular design of the union and its placements were not less expensive options, but were chosen because of what they represent.

“We could have built a square, stuck it off to the side and said everyone run through and feel like an automaton and grab something,” Bird said. “But, no. This is more relational. This design is intended to uplift and be much more reflective and contemplative.”

John Jackson, a construction industry veteran of 28 years and second-generation Linbeck superintendent, said that while the semicircular design is more challenging than a typical linear building, “It just makes it more interesting and something to look forward to every day.”

Linbeck is the design builder for the new union, with Overland Partners working as design architect and Good Fulton Farrell as the architect of record. The three companies have worked hand-in-hand on the design and construction.

The project also included an expansion of the chapel that widened the building to add 150 seats and room for the choir and a new digital pipe organ, which was funded by donors from All Saints’ Episcopal Church.

According to Linbeck vice president and client executive Rebecca Burleson, the goal of the chapel work was to allow the student body and community to gather together in the space.

“Every last worker out there is working toward the same thing and that’s creating a space for young people to learn and grow intellectually and spiritually,” Burleson said. “It’s unique to be part of such a mission-driven, clear vision for a distinct community of families and children.”

Similarly, the union dining space was designed to accommodate many students from various grades.

“As we met with the school and went through an early collaborative process with them … I think one of the things that came out of that was the idea to create a student union that really allowed for more collisions by various student bodies and create a place for them to gather together,” Overland Partners associate principal Joel Albea said.

“It’s going to be a really cool day when we get to walk in and see them actually using it,” he added.


The union was designed to tie into the buildings already on the campus, particularly the chapel, Albea said, and reflects that in its use of materials. For instance, the north wall of the dining space is glass, to reflect the glass in the chapel. And the wooden beams in the chapel ceiling are echoed in the wood in the union’s ceiling.

There is also a cream-colored shell stone featured on the chapel and in the bottom of the bell tower that shows up as part of the accent pieces of the dining hall. Finally, the same campus building brick is used in part of the union.

This is not the first time that All Saints’ has tried to knit together the old and the new on its campus. When the Upper School moved from Tumbleweed Trail to the campus’ current location in 2006, the school wanted to bring some of the 30-year history from the old campus to the new one, particularly elements from the Tumbleweed campus’ Goodrich Chapel.

They brought the stained-glass window into the upper school, the rose window into the chapel and the bell that was on the steeple into the bell tower.

Bird said that this new union will not only continue to tie in the new and the old, but that it is intended to create meaningful connections between people.

“I think there is unintended and unintentional wonder that is going to unfold as a result of this space,” he said. “It’s much more than just having a lunch, having a breakfast. It’s about breaking bread and having conversation. It’s about having intentional collisions.”


This project is part of the third building campaign in All Saints’ history. From 1995-97 the school ran its Building for Character campaign, which resulted in the purchase of the Normandale property for the school’s current campus and construction of the lower and middle schools.

In 2006, the Building for Character Saints United campaign resulted in the sale of the Tumbleweed Trail campus and construction of the upper school on the Normandale property.

The third effort, the Building for Character for All the Saints campaign, brought tennis courts, the Dillard Center for Early Childhood Development and 44 acres in phase one.

The school is now in phase two of that third campaign, which includes the 30,000-square-foot union, chapel renovations and 33,000 square feet of new space retrofitting in the lower, middle and upper schools.

“Those spaces will largely be wide-open, innovative education spaces for collaborative learning, project-based learning – those types of things that complement the rigorous college-prep piece that we have,” Bird said.


While the main function of the new union will of course be an eating area, Burleson pointed out that there are specially designed areas throughout the union for students to gather.

“There will be dining seating and the students will go get their food and sit,” Burleson said, “but there are these drop-down soft seating areas because when it is not functioning as dining it is a place for the students to come to work on team projects, study or just take a few minutes.”

The building also includes a conference room, break room, administration area and offices.

According to literature from All Saints’ and dining services provider SAGE Dining Services Inc., the new dining concept includes some key pillars:

— Exceptional quality – SAGE uses farm-to-table ingredients to offer a variety of healthful foods at more than eight food stations.

— Family-focused – The price of the meals is meant to be comparable to brown-bag lunches from home so parents can focus on “family time, rather than packing lunches.”

— Education for life – Students will receive lessons from SAGE professionals, faculty and volunteers on how to make informed dietary choices

— Community experience and sustainability – Environmentally friendly practices include the use of washable melamine trays, stainless silverware, a water refilling station and composting.

Bird added that the new union aims to tackle several wellness initiatives including nutrition, decompression and connection.

“[SAGE has] a comprehensive approach from farm-to-table, from kitchen-to-table, from food service provider to teachers to students, about what should I put in my body in morning, noon and night, and in what portions,” Bird said. “Adopting this philosophy is intentional on our part to ensure that we do promote a healthy lifestyle for our kids. And we feel that if we do begin it early, that it will take root over time and they will continue to make those choices well after they are here.”

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