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.