The heart of Princeton
Every campus has a heart. The place where students, faculty, and staff just seem to naturally congregate and is constantly in use for reasons designers could never have imagined. Sometimes it’s a campus green, sometimes a coffee shop, sometimes the student union. At Princeton University is it’s historic Firestone Library.
Constructed after World War II in 1948 as the last gothic structure on campus, its renovation is a turning point in campus history requiring a thoughtful sensibility in its redesign. The University entrusted FF&P and Shepley Bulfinch to retain the library’s “DNA" and expand upon it with our own expertise. The resulting concrete loft style interior was designed using openness, transparency, lighting, color, and fabric to subliminally lead visitors through the space.
Within the library, the Ellen and Leonard Milberg Gallery showcasing a collection of rare books and manuscripts is open to visitors after five years of renovations. The vision was to create transparency to these highly sensitive items by designing a “glass box” inviting those on the outside in.
The color palette transitions from dark brown north-facing book cases to white south-facing book cases in a subtle geographic orientation. The North area has a discovery-hub with movable furniture for students to collaborate and use as study space. Islands of study areas are interrupted with couches and chairs to offer additional informal opportunities to explore and learn.
The notion of domesticity and transparency are woven throughout the library's mid-century interiors with hints of modernism. Students and faculty spend tremendous amounts of time in the library for countless activities that will undoubtedly change over time. The flexibility of the final design nurtures this diverse usage and establishes the Library as a timeless place of continuous connection, inspiration, intimacy, and learning.