In contrast to institutional expansions that gobble open space, Maya Lin Studio’s design for the Smith College library reduces the building's footprint to add greenery back to the campus. Two curved glassy wings will bookend the library's core and replace ungainly additions from the 1960s and 80s that restricted movement from the science quadrangle to the campus center.
The design defers to Frederick Law Olmsted's 1893 campus plan, which envisioned the campus as both a botanic garden and arboretum. The glazed facades of the two "jewel boxes" (really?) hug Neilson Library (1909) and provide complementary programs: The north wing is more social, with a digital media commons, general collections, and a cafe, while the south wing holds Smith's special collections, many of which focus on women's history. A new outdoor amphitheater and sunken courtyard on the north side will soften the gradient between in and outdoors, especially during those long New England winters. Landscape design is by Edwina von Gal in partnership with Ryan Associates.
Inside, notable features include an oculus atop the central atrium and a top-floor "skyline room" that bisects the older building's roof to offer sweeping views of the campus lake and the Holyoke Mountain Range. The reliance on natural light, Lin explained, will reduce the building's energy consumption.
Construction is expected to begin next summer and the building should be complete by fall 2020.