January 26, 2022

Academic Libraries: Maya Lin Shares Design for New Neilson Library at Smith College

From Smith College:

Maya Lin’s design for Smith College’s Neilson Library is an innovative, contemporary structure that presents a compelling vision for the modern library while respecting the existing building’s historic significance.


via Smith College

With an emphasis on natural light, sustainable environmental design principles, and flexible interior space that can be used for a variety of purposes—from contemplative reflection to task-oriented collaboration—Lin’s design re-imagines the new Neilson as an intellectual commons at the heart of the college campus. It also reconnects the college’s science quadrangle with the campus’ historic center, restoring integrity to Frederick Law Olmsted’s 1893 campus plan.

Lin unveiled drawings of the new building at an event on campus on October 14.

The new Neilson places a premium on flexible space that blends traditional collections with new technologies and a sharper focus on collaborative learning. The new building retains the original 1909 structure, including the venerable Neilson Browsing Room, but replaces the 1962 and 1982 additions with “jewel box” wings—constructed of masonry, wood and glass—that offer open, inviting, light-filled spaces designed to support research, teaching and learning in a variety of styles.

“Maya Lin and Shepley Bulfinch have given us a design for the premier library of the 21st century,” said Smith College President Kathleen McCartney, “a building that will shape new ways of teaching, learning and conducting research for generations to come. The new building is appropriately modern, yet respectful of the historic Neilson and of Olmsted’s campus plan. In these ways—and so many more—it is distinctly and uniquely Smith.”


via Smith College

Lin said, “My approach is to create a new, state-of-the-art, sustainable building that creates a dialogue with the historic Neilson and opens up and restores the Olmsted master plan, expanding the possibilities of the library while reducing the overall footprint of the building and restoring the heart of the campus.”

Maya Lin Studio developed the design in partnership with colleague William Bialosky and the firm of Shepley Bulfinch.

The project will begin in summer 2017 and will be completed for the fall semester of 2020

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About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.