The new complex sits on the expanded campus pond.
The main reading rooms offers a place to gather, work and study. Recalling the founders’ philosophy, the library windows frame student experiences.
The main stair circulation is animated by an illustrated history of science from the lever at the ground floor, to the computer chip at the top floor.
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Library, Math and Science Building, The Taft School
Watertown, Connecticut
Two interventions on this venerable campus combine to remake the academic heart of the school. Two distinct architectural traditions create the primary character of campus. The original Gothic buildings by James Gamble Rogers and Bertram Goodhue evoke medieval, ecclesiastical and collegiate architecture. The site-specific inflection of the buildings extends their function and shape into the landscape, while the more recent “object” buildings are more static and less successful in creating a unified whole.

Celebrating this vocabulary as the integrating thread of the campus ensemble, the new buildings and renovations utilize similar form-making gestures, while acting as background to the established, historic buildings. The Gamble Rogers and Goodhue buildings provide the primary inspiration for the new Mathematics and Science Center. The building is broken down into humanly scaled elements and begins to create outdoor spaces, similar to the original buildings, using bays and dormers to interact with the landscape. A large courtyard acts as an outdoor classroom. A 1960s library was enclosed in brick to create a cohesive assemblage of building skins.

The Science Center forms a new focal point on the campus edge where building and nature exist harmoniously. During early considerations of the campus as a whole, the importance of the pond at the campus center became apparent. A key issue of the new building intervention is its relationship to the water. The solution emphasizes the pond as the anchor for campus buildings. To emphasize water as a primary locus, the size of the pond was doubled, increasing its ability to physically engage the building edges.

During the preliminary investigation of campus hierarchy, the relationship of a modern intervention in the campus fabric came to the forefront. The 1960s-era library facade clashed dramatically with the ornamented campus aesthetic, and the interior spaces lacked many public amenities. As part of the larger campus reorganization, it was proposed to wrap the existing library facade and create a new reading room to continue the line of facades along the water’s edge. Taken together, the new Mathematics and Science Center and expanded library create an educational center that presents a cohesive whole while unifying the renowned campus architecture.

The new library construction consists of two large spaces and renovations to the existing building. The addition replaces the former sunken common area with a soaring great room.

Due to its internal configuration, the common room is organized by a skylight covering almost the entire ceiling. This space is the new heart of the library, an orientation point for students and the location of the new circulation desk.

Phrases from the school’s founders are sandblasted in the glass of the library reading room, recalling the stained glass and etchings seen in the windows around campus and expressing the traditions and missions of the school.

COMPLETION

1997

SIZE

60,000 SF

PHOTOGRAPHY

Peter Aaron/ESTO

OTHER PROJECTS