New Hartford Memorial Library, New Hartford, CT

We designed this library to reflect the strong traditions of Greek Revival and Victorian architecture which have influenced this small town in northwestern Connecticut.   

To mitigate the impact of a 10,000 square foot footprint in a small scale town, we broke the program down into what appear to be a compound of smaller, separate buildings which have been joined to­gether over time.  Each of the building elevations responds to its specific context with a facade of a dif­ferent character.   The street front elevation is the most grand, marked by a full height Greek Revival portico which addresses the library’s place in the life of the town, yet welcomes visitors with a wide Windsor bench that beckons one to sit awhile and watch the town go by.  The reading rooms to ei­ther side of the entry portico are clad in brick with gentle projections that imply a Greek colonnade.  Behind the reading rooms, the building changes from brick to wood and forms an “L” shape which en­closes a small reading garden where fragrant armloads of flowers are proudly kept in bloom by the local garden club.  From study tables inside, banks of windows offer soothing views of the gar­den.

The rear of the library is punctuated by the children’s room, a tall vertical building in the manner of a Victorian carriage house that introduces a more playful, informal theme consistent with its function.  A second entrance is located here, convenient to the parking lot at the rear of the complex.  From this en­trance a pebbled walk follows the adandoned raised bed of a former railroad line which once crossed the site.  Benches and flow­ering fruit trees line this walk, which terminates in a trellised moon gate we designed just at the brink of a precipitous drop in the railroad bed.  The circular opening of the moon gate is oriented to frame a view across the valley to a matching crumbling bulwark which once received the other end of a long vanished railroad bridge, now just a memory revived.

Themes begun on the outside are continued inside the library.  The main reading rooms are framed by columns and a system of ceiling beams that recall the Greek Revival era.  A fireplace, flanked by pan­eling and book­shelves, offers a cozy place to curl up with a book, or to sit on floor cushions to listen to readings.  In the chil­dren’s library, the ceiling articulates the shape of the steep roof above, in keep­ingwith the Victorian feel of the exterior.   Our traditional design approach has pro­duced a building which appears to have already stood the test of time, yet which carries all the con­veniences of modern building and information technology.