2017 AIA Awards – Interior Architecture
Firm: designLAB architects
Associate Firm: Austin Architects
Owner: University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth
Location: North Dartmouth, Massachusetts
The university aimed to transform this Brutalist library into a modern hub of knowledge that supported its educational and technological needs—all within a $200-per-square-foot budget.
Guided by research and critiques of the original structure—the centerpiece of Paul Rudolph’s post-war campus-planning experiment—the architects adhered to original intention rather than faithful replication as they renovated the outdated 160,000-square-foot, six-story library and added an additional 25,000-square-foot infill space.
The upper levels of the library have been partially relieved of stacks and reprogrammed as flexible learning environments. The remaining shelves have been reoriented to increase daylighting while improving navigation throughout. Below an existing concrete link bridge sits the main entryway, browsing area, circulation desk, fireplaces, and a café. Fascinated by the indoor and outdoor lounge pits that Rudolph sprinkled throughout the campus to facilitate impromptu social interaction, the design team inserted warmer walnut versions that provide relief from the unrelenting concrete of the original building.
Respectfully confronting the structure, vibrant colors and patterns found in updated super-graphics, textiles, and furniture reinvigorate the space’s uniform gray coloring. Derived from the donor’s initials, a pattern of the letters “CTCL” form the basis of the updated wayfinding and branding. The letters are woven together and overlapped, recalling the university’s days as a textile school.
Envisioned as a campus living room, the library is thriving in a revitalized role. Since the renovations, the number of students who use it has more than doubled.