This project undertook the renovation and expansion of a thoroughly inadequate library built in 1969 for a then young New England college. The front of the old building was remodeled to make its spire a beacon of radiating light and to provide a stepped proscenium at the spire's base for socializing and frequent ceremonies and concerts. The rear of the building was largely demolished and replaced with a larger addition now open to a wooded glade and the panorama of stream and mountain beyond. Inside, the old structure was reduced from three floors to two, merged via a skylit rotunda and open balconies. There is a variety of ambiences ranging from the lively cyber café to the secluded team study rooms cantilevered out into the treetops.
The library includes the Lender Family Special Collections Room housing a unique American exhibit on An Gorta Mor, the Great Hunger in Ireland during the late-nineteenth century. The exhibit features paintings, sculptures, an illustrated history, and a comprehensive collection of published materials.
In addition to answering current functional and technical demands, Centerbrook saw the building as having the power, through its unique language of procession, emotion, and symbolism, to be an alternative to, or a sanctuary from the more troubling aspects of the cultural environment students must contend with today. Its design was to be informed by the core philosophical concerns of humankind: knowledge, individual conduct, and governance.
First, Centerbrook sought to make it a place that celebrates the life of the mind. Computer access to knowledge is not relegated to enclosed rooms but is instead integrated into the building along with over a hundred artworks spanning centuries.
Second, the more admirable traits of individual conduct were considered and the organization of the building was made rational, structured, and processional. An important goal was to achieve the attributes of craft and care and a balance between rationality and emotion; a balance between exuberance and serenity. Perhaps most importantly, Centerbrook strove to make a place of harmony and beauty that would nurture contemplation.
Third, both within the library and at its front door, settings for social interaction and forums for a public life were created, both essential constructs of a sense of community and the polis.
Out of these three aspects of knowledge, conduct, and community, Centerbrook attempted to make of the building a symbol of humankind's highest aspirations, and, like Ariadne's gift of the golden cord to Theseus, help students to more easily find their way out of the labyrinth.
Photography © Jeff Goldberg/Esto, Peter Aaron/Esto, David Sundberg/Esto