Shooting for the Starrs

26 Feb 2010

Middlebury College mixes historic elements and new spaces in the reinvention of the Starr Library

As the winning entry to a college-sponsored design competition, the design for the new Axinn Center at Starr Library meets all the criteria that Middlebury College stated in its brief. It reinvents a beloved campus landmark, meets the need for additional classrooms and faculty offices, brings disparate departments together for increased interdisciplinary collaboration and redefines the centre of an expanding campus.

The project involves the renovation of the historic library built in 1890's and the construction of two new wings that together now offer a centralised home for the History, Film and Media Culture, English and American Literatures departments. The program for the 81,000 sq ft facility includes faculty offices, technologically 'smart' classrooms, a 45-seat tiered classroom and 2-storey film production and editing studio. A light-filled Winter Garden, which faces south and overlooks a sustainably landscaped courtyard, connects the dynamic program elements and the new and existing spaces, and is the major horizontal circulation for the project.

The building composition features the original reading rooms at its centre, flanked by two stone and punched windowed wings which contemporise the College’s traditional stark New England stone buildings. Circulation elements are enclosed in light filled glass volumes that further indentify the new and historic elements. The reuse of the school’s historic fabrication ties directly into their major commitment to creating an environmentally sustainable campus. This commitment is extended through energy conscious systems to heat and cool the building, material and lighting selections, and operational and recycling programs.

The building is organised so each department is contained within a floor of the faculty wings with meeting space, administrative support and office areas. The co-location is paying off in interdisciplinary work, seminars, symposiums and events. The wings connect to the central Winter Garden, which has become one of the most sought after spaces to study and meet people on campus. Classrooms focus onto the Winter Garden, as do the original reading rooms which now serve as more formal meeting and presentation spaces.The facility is one of the most successful and heavily used in the College’s recent building program because of the mix of historic and new spaces, and the variety of learning spaces.

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