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"Mistake Gym" Echoes Principia's Maybeck History

Make no mistake about it, the “Mistake Gym” near the School’s west gate is exactly what Helmkamp Construction Co. and the architects were going for. The mock-up for the Bill Simon Field House project has been guiding Principia planners, architects, and job-site workers since it was built nearly a year ago for the groundbreaking ceremony. It provides a visual aid for exterior finishes on the $31.15 million Simon Athletic Complex centerpiece.

“It’s mostly for Principia and the architects to see what it's going to look like as the project progresses,” says Helmkamp Project Superintendent Kevin Feldott.

While the crew just refers to the facade as a mock-up, Principia facilities personnel and others familiar with the structure have started calling it the “Mistake Gym” in a nod to the College’s famed Bernard Maybeck “Mistake House.” It’s a common practice to establish such a mock-up to help keep larger projects on track—projects that require lots of coordination of exterior finishes amongst contractors, subcontractors, architects, and owners.

Maybeck’s “Mistake House” was built in 1931 and was originally called the Sample House, but some of Maybeck’s experimental ideas didn’t work out and Maybeck rejected them for the new buildings he was designing. “For this reason, the workmen building the model house began to call it the ‘Mistake House,’ and the college has retained that name ever since,” writes Robert M. Craig, author of Bernard Maybeck at Principia College: The Art and Craft of Building.

The “Mistake Gym” mockup is scheduled to remain in place until the end of spring. Visit our website to learn more about the Simon Athletic Complex—including progress on Principia’s new athletic fields.