Library for The 21st Century at The MacDowell Colony Nears Completion

Press Release - March 20, 2013

Type: Buildings & Grounds, Press Releases, Events

Jonathan Gourlay photo

Peterborough, NH – Come August, Medal Day visitors will find a new kind of library at The MacDowell Colony. The centerpiece of a recent capital campaign, this modern granite and glass extension of the now renovated Eugene Coleman Savidge Library will support creative work and new artistic practices in the 21st century.

"MacDowell provides an amazing opportunity for artists to share ideas across disciplines and this new facility will be as conducive to collaboration as to solo research,” said MacDowell Resident Director David Macy. “Because of the old library’s limitations, the need for this new building has grown in parallel with new technologies for the past two decades.”

Designed by internationally renowned architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien of New York, the 2,900 square foot structure complements historic Savidge Library, seamlessly connecting MacDowell’s past to its future, both visually and functionally. The architects aimed for a building that respects tradition while also pointing the way to the future. Interior details include white oak floors and paneling, triple-glazed windows, and energy-efficient lighting. Built in 1928, the original building will remain a favorite spot for artists to connect with past MacDowell Fellows.

“We didn’t want to change its character,” said Billie Tsien, “so the [new] library is set a little behind Savidge.” She and partner Tod Williams thought it especially important to preserve the feeling artists get of walking with history when approaching the iconic reading room. The old library’s southwest corner opens into the new building via a short hallway that will double as a small gallery to display the work of MacDowell Fellows. Its floor to ceiling windows opposite the gallery wall face the path leading to the entry; at night the glow from these windows illuminate the building like a lantern, welcoming artists at any time of night.

A 30-foot tall freestanding chimney clad in the same granite as the new library marks the main entrance and will serve as a gathering spot, a place to share the warmth while exchanging ideas.

“It’s almost a mast that announces this new communal creative space … in a very primal way,” Tsien said. “MacDowell is a very, very special place and being able to contribute to the history and tradition of MacDowell is an honor.”

General Contractor Tim Groesbeck and his team of carpenters and sub-contractors broke ground on the project in April, 2012, and expect to put on finishing touches in April 2013. Culminating a five-year fundraising campaign, generous donations of $1.6 million funded the new construction, renovation of the existing building, and landscaping that will tie the two together. An additional $300,000 was raised for an endowed maintenance fund that will cover utilities and address future repairs.

When the complex opens later this spring, the stately 1,000-square-foot reading room will be freed from computer work tables and other equipment that was, over the years, shoehorned in to accommodate functional needs. Soon, the original Savidge Library will resume its traditional function as the designated space for artists’ after-dinner presentations. By contrast, the new wing offers a computer friendly alternative to the secluded studios.

Based on years of feedback gathered from artists-in-residence, the architects were tasked with designing a new space that would embrace collaboration and support the growing edge of Web-based art making, especially among multidisciplinary artists. Technological advances within the new building will allow Fellows to interact with and draw inspiration from a digital archive of visual arts, music and videos. In addition to eight desks and a variety of comfortable spaces for reading, the new space includes two small work rooms for watching movies or listening to music without disturbing others. With more than 700 feet of new shelf space and a dedicated file server, the library will offer easy access to all MacDowell Fellows’ work in every discipline, including architectural drawings, music scores, and interdisciplinary arts as well as written works and visual arts regardless of media.

“In some ways all libraries are social spaces, but that is even more true at MacDowell,” Tsien said. “We see it as a gathering place where people will come together … not only to socialize but to work.”