|Image: Pablo Sanchez|
The campus at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire is probably what you might expect from one of the most well-known and respected private secondary schools in the country. The red brick buildings are “as luxurious as the nation’s top universities,” said the New York Times, and surround a quad with a building at its center which seems quite out of place. Louis Kahn’s Phillips Exeter Academy Library rises as a great mass from the treed lawn, red brick rhythmically punctured by windows outlined in wood. The library feels foreign among the delicate steepled buildings nearby and seems to flaunt its uniqueness by not even resolving its corners.
The exterior of Kahn’s masterpiece -- the library won the AIA’s 25 Year Award in 1997 -- is monolithic and monumental, and though the interior is more delicate, that term is only used relative to the experience of approach. After entry, visitors are met with a rounded concrete staircase that leads to the main atrium. The atrium is the most iconic portion of this building, with four floors of open air before reaching a massive concrete crossbeam used for structure and to reflect light from clerestory windows downward into the space. The walls look like they have been punched by a giant cookie cutter. The concrete walls have four-storey round apertures that allow the book stacks to be seen beyond.
|Entry Stairs. Image: Rand Lemley|
|Student carrels. Image: Rand Lemley|
|Atrium apertures. Image:Rand Lemley|