Stetson Main Library

Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts

The renovation and redesign of Stetson Hall represents the final accomplishment in a phased reconfiguration of the north side of Williams College's classic New England campus. The finished ensemble of three buildings, all designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, defines a new campus lawn for Williams College. The lawn is defined by Schapiro and Hollander Halls for the Humanities and Social Sciences (100,000 gross square feet; $35.1 million) to the north and south and is anchored by an expanded, restored and reintegrated Stetson Hall, the new main library for the entire College (178,000 gross square feet; $62 million).

Stetson Hall, the College's historic library was designed by Cram and Ferguson and completed in 1923. It was an elegantly appointed Georgian Revival building that housed both general and rare books at Williams. The College kept its rapidly expanding collections in a succession of additions to Stetson until a replacement, Sawyer Library, was built in 1973. The general collection was then moved to Sawyer while rare books remained in Stetson; the rest of the building was hastily renovated to provide uncomfortable faculty offices and awkward classroom spaces.

In 2003, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson studied options for new office and classroom buildings to replace the inadequate quarters in Stetson; the College also tasked us to identify options for expanding the cramped Sawyer Library. Bohlin Cywinski Jackson's planning and cost estimates revealed that any any renovation or expansion of Sawyer would be prohibitively expensive; in light of this, BCJ worked with Williams to develop a phased construction approach that addressed the strengths and inadequacies of both Sawyer and Stetson and strove to redefine an under-utilized quadrant of campus.

Hollander and Schapiro Halls, the new Humanities and Social Science buildings,were completed in August 2008; currently in construction is a complete renovation/ restoration and major expansion of Stetson Hall to be completed in 2014. BCJ's plan for Stetson involves restoring historical detail to public spaces and galleries in the existing historic building, as well as removing nine levels of cast-iron book stacks at the rear to create an open, multi-story atrium.This atrium houses circulation and acts as a point of entry to the new, four-story addition beyond, which will serve the Williams community through an emphasis on adaptable group and private study spaces, increased staff and faculty spaces, integrated technologies and a bright aesthetic composition.

Once work on Stetson is complete, the library will return its "new" but original home and the 1973 Sawyer Library will be demolished. The lawn constructed in its place will create a new quadrangle, between Hollander and Schapiro Halls, and centered on the original porticoed entrance to Stetson Hall.
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Client: Other projects for Williams College