Located at the picturesque campus of Muskingum University in New Concord, OH, The Roberta A. Smith University Library provided the challenge of creating a 21st century library within Muskingum’s traditional college campus context. The project’s success is measured by its ability to transform the underwhelming existing 1950’s building from eyesore to asset (while upholding the university’s signature locally‐sourced exterior palette), and to claim it as the new heart of campus as identified in the campus master plan.
The existing building, sited on a steep hillside, was riddled with spatial challenges, including extremely shallow floor‐to‐floor heights, deficient natural light, and an unwelcoming façade at the university’s “front door”. The inherently rigid existing building did not foster collaboration, social learning, or the sharing of ideas, all of which are essential ingredients for thriving modern academic libraries.
The design goal for the re-envisioned library focused less on housing books and more on a richly collaborative environment that inspires and excites learning in diverse ways. A full spectrum of spaces evokes different participatory levels. These include quiet private study areas, cooperative group work, instructive learning, the buzzing hub (The Colloquium), distance learning, and a Grand Stair that encourages long‐stay study with welcome social interaction. The interior palette, featuring Muskingum’s signature magenta, enlivens and vibrantly codes these spaces. A mix of soft, warm neutrals and the bright pops of color give a depth to the interior that balances the traditional with the modern in dialogue with the timeless exterior. The previously dark and cave-like interior was amended through sensitive treatment of the building shell. Lifting the roof creating a clerestory and adding a glassy main façade provides beautiful natural light which graces the interior spaces like never before. As a double height space, The Colloquium is adorned with architectural ceiling elements crafted in maple. A sophisticated fireplace paired with a digital screen ties together the duality of the modern and the traditional styles.