Conor Szarek, a senior at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, has a favorite nook on the fifth floor of the renovated Claire T. Carney Library, but the library is so popular these days, he can’t always get the spot he wants.
“I try to get a good view of one of the cantilevered portions of the building,” Szarek said. “You get a large, open expanse of window which is awesome, and depending on where you sit, it’s always a different angle.”
The concrete building erected in North Dartmouth in 1973 and designed by architect Paul Rudolph originally had cantilevered “boxes” that looked out over the campus that over time were enclosed for offices, said Kelly Haigh, a licensed architect with DesignLAB of Boston. The company won multiple awards earlier this year for a 2012 redesign of 150,000 square feet of the “Brutalist” styled structure.
A 25,000-square-foot addition also was built, with a basement now dedicated to storage of lesser-used books and journals that can be retrieved as needed by staff at the circulation desk, said Catherine A. Fortier-Barnes, assistant dean for library services. The entire project cost $48 million, the university said.
The enclosures “cut off the light and view and made the interiors very dark,” Haigh said. “We opened those back up, using glass partitions so we could maintain that view and visual connection.”
Getting a visual break from homework is just one of many advantages to the architectural transformation, said Szarek and Fortier-Barnes. Electrical outlets are everywhere – unobtrusively, in the floors, for instance – so today’s wired student can plug in and charge smartphones, tablets and laptops, they said.
“There’s a lot more collaboration [today] and a lot more homework online and you get instant feedback [from professors],” Szarek said. “We take quizzes on smartphones or tablets. I think [the architects] did a great job redesigning it. They definitely got the idea of how people should inhabit the space. They humanized Rudolph in a great way.”
Today’s university libraries are no longer quiet repositories for books and periodicals. For UMass Dartmouth, adapting architecturally has meant making the existing concrete building structurally open, electronically accessible, with flexible interior rooms and furniture, as well as providing space to accommodate social activity and rooms for computerized presentations.