Rhodes College, Paul Barret, Jr. Library

Memphis, Tennessee

The library remains the intellectual heart of a college campus. At this historic Charles Klauder-inspired campus, the library became the new geographic heart as well. Placemaking, in site, design and program, became key to success. The chosen site provided the strongest opportunity to enhance existing open spaces between a student center and campus-life center, creating ADDITIONAL INFORMATIONASSOCIATED FIRMShepley Bulfinch Richardson and AbbottCAPACITY1,526COST PER SQ FT$309.00FEATURED IN2007 Architectural Portfolio new academic/student-services quadrangle. The results are transformational, both physically and culturally. The library creates a stately new entrance to campus, provides a positive impact on campus scale and offers potential for expansion. The campus has retained its Gothic identity by mandate of its founding president and board of directors in 1925.

This presented another design challenge: placing a monumental building in the context of a Gothic village. The solution was to make the building larger on one side and smaller on the other to mediate between facilities such as the gymnasium and smaller structures built in the 1920s. In addition to accommodating a collection of up to 500,000 volumes, the college desired computer labs; an assistive-technology room for the visually and hearing-impaired; a 32-seat viewing theater; the Teaching and Learning Center for testing research strategies and technology; an expanded special-collections room; wood study carrels with listening/viewing stations; and hangout spaces, such as a 24-hour coffee lounge, for informal interaction. New construction made insertion of technology easy.

Designed with an aura of permanence and tradition, the building form recalls a cathedral. The apse, cloister and two towers (one major, one minor) are clad in limestone and rubble stone, and topped with a slate and copper roof. Symbols important to the campus tradition are carved into stone and reflected in stained-glass windows. Interior highlights include columns, balconies and arches of moldable, glass-fiber-reinforced gypsum that look like stone, but are much lighter.