Sawyer Library: farewell & welcome

The past week I’ve been keeping track of the demolition of the old Sawyer Library, and you can too on the College’s construction blog.  A few days ago I gaped at a huge excavator at work with a shear attachment, and channeling my inner three-year-old, imagined a dinosaur with giant metal jaws.  And yesterday there were six excavators on the site, hard at it simultaneously, outfitted with buckets and grasping teeth, some salvaging rebar and other metal, while others scooped and crushed rubble to fill in the foundation hole.  The unmaking of the old was as dramatic as the making of the new.

Most impressive was the opening up of the view toward the west façade of Stetson Hall, and the culmination of a new campus axis, first suggested by architect and planner Ben Thompson back in the Sixties.  With the removal of the boxy brick obstruction of the Harry Weese & Associates building, an open quadrangle will create a public space as satisfying as the new water feature at the Clark Art Institute, where I work.  And then the rendering at the top of this page will finally take shape in actuality.

Thus I’ll be prompted to put the finishing touches on this website, just as the finishing touches are placed on the grand project of the New Sawyer Library.  The library itself has been in operation for almost a year, and by now has a familiar, lived-in feeling.  A magnificent construction built for use, designed to be all things to all people, it is already fulfilling its purposes, and will soon achieve its ultimate shape.  I look forward to drawing comparisons between the work of Bohlen Cywinski Jackson on the fulfillment of this plan for a new campus focal point, and Tadao Ando’s creation of the same for the Clark, achieving similar aims in antithetical styles.  It’s been a stunning year for architecture in our remote corner of Massachusetts, and I intend to celebrate it.