Member News

SMP Architecture Completes Design & Construction of Library
Durham, NH
08/30/2013 03:51 PM
August 1 marked the “soft opening” of Durham’s new public library with patrons filing in as the construction crew finished up final touches. Library Director Thomas Madden reported that “Wow!” was the most often heard word of the day as the long-patient residents discovered the features of a fully functional, energy efficient, state-of-the-art building after years in a cramped strip mall storefront. Ribbon cutting ceremonies are scheduled for 1pm on September 8th.

The Concord firm of SMP Architecture designed a two-story building that incorporates (and complements) a 1920s brick tudor-style house on Madbury Road. The library takes the form of a sunny south facing courtyard, surrounded by cloister-like colonnades that lead you in to the entrance.

Once inside, visitors have the option of entering the original house, now a double height café and periodicals room, proceeding upstairs to a gallery hall and 150 person meeting room, or entering the library proper. The library wraps around the courtyard with special feature rooms looking out to a landscaped rain garden.  

The interior character of the space was developed in participatory sessions with the public and draws inspiration from wood and cast iron libraries of the 19th century. Exposed black steel columns with decorative steel capitals and a recurring palette of black iron and rich reddish wood tones pick up this theme as does the intricately patterned carpet.

The Durham Public Library features an adult reading bay, a young adult room with built-in–the-wall computer carrels, a toddler bay with couches overlooking the garden and a craft and story hour room. Unique to this library is a 20’ replica gundalow, the coastal trade vessel featured on the Durham town seal. Now tied up at a child-scaled town dock, it has become an instant hit as a play structure and reading nook.

The loving attention to detail was the product of a robust team effort between SMP, Bauen Corporation of Meredith who built the building, and a very enthusiastic citizens committee with an abundance of talent (and three more architects) in its own right.  Behind it all, the Durham voters backed this project to the tune of 74% approval. When it all comes together, magic can happen!
Anthony Mento
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