While some of the new architecture at Brown University is distinctly modern, Manhattan-based Selldorf Architects has been selected to bring back the historic charm of the circa 1910 English Renaissance John Hay Library. According to the Brown Daily Herald, the project was jumpstarted in February following an anonymous $3 million donation, plus another anonymous $6 million donation for the renovation from 2011. The Hay Library, which houses the university’s rare books collection, archives, and other special collections, will be reconfigured to open up the grand 4,400-square-foot reading room to its original design by Boston architects Shepley Rutan & Coolidge. The room is currently divided into parts to securely store sensitive books. The larger space will allow more access to the public and can play host to larger university-related events.
Historic view of the reading room at the John Hay Library. (Courtesy Brown University Library)
Librarian Harriette Hemmasi told the Daily Herald Selldorf Architects was chosen in part for their renovation of the Neue Galerie in New York. “If you’ve been in there, you know it’s really beautiful,” Hammasi told the Daily Herald. “And it’s also really tastefully done, so it’s not just sort of sugary, drippy, old-fashioned. But it has sort of an edge to it, sort of a modern and old mix. And that’s what I envisioned for the John Hay, too.” The year-long project is expected to get underway this summer.