by Michael J. Crosbie
The original Skillman Library was always a bit of an arsenal for books. Designed by Philadelphia architect Vincent Kling and constructed in 1963 on the campus of Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania, it was a limestone and brick fortress with narrow slit windows and all the warmth of a bunker. The design of the limestone cornice at the building's top even suggested battlements.
It seems as though every college campus in the United States has at least one hard-edged, downright hostile, post-war "boomer building." These buildings, built in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, show the worst of "take-no-prisoners" modernism that ignored context, comfort, and sound construction practices. Some of these eyesores are now falling apart. What is one to do with those that have reached the end of their useful life?
The expanded and renovated Skillman Library shows us one solution. The building has shed its armor and invites you in through glassy new walls that wrap the original building and offer visitors a view out to the east, over the campus quadrangle upon which it sits.
The design of the new Skillman Library was shared by two architecture firms. In 2000, the college conducted a national design competition for the expansion of the library, which was won by the Boston firm of Schwartz/ Silver Architects, with Robert Miklos as the lead designer. The programming for the new building and conceptual design was completed by Schwartz/ Silver. >>>
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The transformed Skillman Library, Lafayette College, by Robert Miklos, Schwartz/ Silver Architects, and Ann Beha Architects.
Photo: Steven Wolfe
Original 1960s construction.
Photo: Ann Beha Architects
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