“I always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library”– Jorge Luis Borges
My professional focus has been on design in a cultural landscape, and New England gives me a lot to work with. New Englanders care about their environment, and communities here have a temporal dimension you don’t find in most parts of the country. It’s not about creating something from nothing by yourself- it’s a conversation with many voices, living and dead. The landscape here is a palimpsest, where the ghosts of past places and people can be seen under the present and must be reckoned with.
In recent years I have focused on small town libraries. The library world has been transformed by digital technologies and the growing community center role of libraries, and this building type has afforded rich design possibilities. It has also meant working with community groups and local building committees in a very personalized context- very different from designing for the corporate world. I get to live a while as part of a community, take in the physical environment, the community and its dreams, and create a design that can foster those dreams and be a kind of portrait of the community. I also have to be willing to appreciate and work with a community’s view of design. This does not win magazine awards- my compensation is the community’s embrace of my work and library staff stories about how the new facilities have enhanced the library’s role.
Many of these projects have been additions and renovations to historic libraries or new libraries in historic town centers. Old libraries are beloved parts of the landscape, and New Englanders don’t give them up easily. Blending historic buildings and digital technologies means stretching your design thinking across three or four centuries, and I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.