November 16: Exeter’s New Library

2016/11/16 § Leave a comment

On this day in 1971 no classes were held at Philips Exeter Academy.

Classes were cancelled so that everyone could pitch in and move the books from the old library to the new one, filling in the shelving that stood in the building that is perhaps the most celebrated library of the twentieth century.  Officially called the Class of 1945 Library, in many circles it is simply “the Exeter” or maybe getting more to the point, “Kahn’s library.”  For the prestigious private school, Louis I. Kahn designed a square-planned, cubic structure, 111 feet on a side rising to a height of about 85 feet.  Its plan reveals the studied simplicity, and the elevations the monumental heft, for which Kahn is well-known.  A closer look reveals the small details–changes in materials, sculpting of spaces–that preserve human-scaled spaces within the overall monument.  That’s not an easy thing to do, and not a common thing among the mid-century moderns; but it’s an essential thing, especially for a library.  Kahn’s building can be read in multiple ways: the vast scale of timeless geometries pronouncing the majesty of learning through books, as well as the small private spaces into which a person can withdraw and fall into the printed page.  In a way, Moving Day emulated this same ideal.  In part out of a desire for speed and economy, all members of the campus community–students, faculty, staff–pitched in by hauling boxes of books across campus and building up the collection, one crateful at a time.

Image: the library (from this source)

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You are currently reading November 16: Exeter’s New Library at Clio’s Calendar: Daily Musings on Architectural History.

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