Spring begins on Friday but you’d never know it by the weather in New Hampshire. Today the temperatures were hovering in the upper 20’s with 25 MPH winds and gusting… true winter weather for the Annual Winter Walk-Off 2015.
Fellow blogger, Les, at A Tidewater Gardener, issued the following challenge to be completed by midnight, March 19: “On your own two feet, leave the house, and share what can be seen within walking (or biking) distance of your home (if you want to drive to your walk destination that’s OK too). Your post does not have to be about gardening or a travelogue (though I do like both), unless you want it to be. Maybe instead you will find some unusual patterns, interesting shadows, signs of spring, a favorite restaurant or shop, questionable landscaping, or local eyesores. Whatever, just keep your eyes and mind open, be creative, and have fun, but don’t show anything from your own garden.”
With the deadline for the event looming, I charged myself today with the task of completing Les’ challenge. There are no gardens visible beneath the snow in New Hampshire but when I thought of the most interesting shapes, angles, patterns, and shadows indoors, I could think of nothing better than the local Phillips Exeter Academy’s library, the largest secondary school library in the world.
The architect was Louis I. Kahn who was commissioned in 1965 to design a library for the academy. With his love of brick, his design fit right in with the brick Georgian buildings on campus. He was oft quoted saying, “I asked the brick, ‘What do you like, brick?’ And brick said, ‘I like an arch.'” And you see his arch again and again in this library. He is known also for his skillful use of natural light in the library. Groundbreaking was in 1969 and it was open for students in 1971. In 1997, the library was awarded the American Institute of Architect’s Twenty-Five Year Award. Read more about Louis Kahn and the design process HERE.
The building is all about shapes. Walking up to the library, we see a square brick building that looks as if the outside walls are are detached or floating. Bricked pavilions lead visitors to entries. Click to enlarge photos.
There are officially 4 floors in the library but in actuality, there are 9 levels. I climbed the stairs to all the floors and tried to capture a piece of the architecture: angles, shapes and shadows and patterns…. arches, squares, diamonds, rectangles, and circles. Staircases provide curves, sharp angles, rectangles, and triangles:
Views from every floor give great form to function with the use of wood and concrete:
Click to enlarge.
There are 210 study carrels for students, all flooded with natural light and views to the campus below. Although the students are on spring break and nowhere to be seen today, I smiled when I saw that some of the carrels must be claimed domains:
Click to enlarge.
On the upper most floors are reading lounges with fireplaces, long tables group work, great views overlooking the campus and the administration building and a closer view of the circular atrium high above that illuminates the first floor:
Far below, a flurry of activity is evident on the ground floor level preparing for something new, The Library Commons, a place for social interaction. Furniture will arrive any day, furniture that will be flexible for individual or group use and can be arranged in a number of ways. Also in the plans for this area is a much anticipated café.
It looks nothing at all like Virginia’s beloved Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, yet I thought of TJ as I walked through the library. I have a sense that both architects had similar visions for their buildings. They both possessed imagination and boldness of thought, both ahead of their time, both fashioned a building with a sense of serenity and, finally, this architect positioned his library to overlook this campus as Jefferson positioned his home to overlook his cherished University of Virginia.