Williams College, Stetson Hall, Sawyer Library

Williamstown, Massachusetts, United States

1 / 4 – Photo credit: Nic Lehoux



The new library complex at Williams College unites the main library with the renowned Chapin Library of Rare Books and the Center for Educational Technology. Filled with abundant community space, group workrooms, classrooms, teleconferencing and a 24/7 study center, the new Sawyer Library is a multifunctional destination for individual and collaborative scholarship.

The Nature of Place

The library’s primary facade is the iconic 1921 Stetson Hall. This project reinstates Stetson’s architectural splendor as well as its status at the heart of the Williams experience. Meticulously restored, this beloved landmark allows the large library complex to fit gracefully within the historic fabric of the campus. Facing the student center across a new campus green, the library will sit at the head of a quadrangle whose axis links the academic landscape to a luminous five-level atrium in the new building. Cascading along a natural slope towards sweeping views of the Berkshire Mountains, the new library spaces look outward while also drawing from the atrium’s social energy that unifies the building’s diverse venues.

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Photo credit: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

The Nature of People

Sawyer Library’s distinct zones for Collections and Collaboration allow users to easily navigate the building.

The Collections Zone houses books in a hybrid-compact shelf format, with individual study carrels around the perimeter, offering distant mountain views, light, immediate collection access and a quiet study environment.

Across the central atrium from the Collections Zone, the Collaboration Zone represents the vision of the 21st-century library as a space for cooperative learning and group activities. Arrayed on three levels, it collocates the library’s primary services: Reference, Technology and Rare Books. Natural light, social presence and inspiring views of the Collaboration Zone naturally pull users towards these services and the intellectual exchange that they offer.

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Photo credit: Nicholas Snyder

The Nature of Materials

The new library addition stands as a backdrop for historic Stetson Hall. Vermont’s textured green-gray slate provides an exterior material compatible with the spectacular surrounding landscape while acting as a counterpoint to the Georgian red brick building.

In a sustainable reference to its past much of the library’s entry sequence, including the open atrium stair, is paved in salvaged marble from the building’s original cast iron book stack system. Restored to a bright white finish the material complements the natural light within the main circulation spaces of the building.

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Photo credit: Peter Aaron

Project Data

Williamstown, Massachusetts, United States
2005 – 2009, 2011 – 2014
Williams College
45,500 gsf (existing) + 131,700 gsf (addition)


AIA/ALA Library Building Award
American Architecture Awards
Library Design Showcase
Excellence in Architecture Honor Award - Building Additions, Renovation or Adaptive Reuse
Award of Excellence