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Claire T. Carney Library Addition & Renovation

designLAB Architects, Austin Architects

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University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth


  • Construction Manager: Consigli Construction Company
  • Civil Engineer: Nitsch Engineering
  • Structural Engineer: RSE Associates
  • Electrical Engineer: Garcia Galuska DeSousa
  • Mechanical Engineer: Fitzmeyer & Tocci Associates
  • Landscape Architect: Richard Burck Associates
  • Lighting Designer: Sladen Feinstein Integrated Lighting

Project Status

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Project Description

The Claire T. Carney Library is the centerpiece of one of the most significant experiments in campus planning and Brutalism. Paul Rudolph designed the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth as a commuter college between 1962 and 1974. In his utopian vision, commuters parked on a ring road and travelled into the “ideal city” through cantilevering forms. Sculptural “lounge pits” facilitated social gatherings throughout.

Since then, the University’s educational paradigms evolved beyond the library’s ability to support them. The outdated library was completely re-planned with an addition conceived as the campus “living room”. The University’s goal was to “transform [it] into a modern hub of knowledge creation, dissemination, and interaction” envisioning an “intellectual & scholarly hub.”

Encased in glass, old is presented as new. Glazing and metal sunshades convert the “energy monster” into a sustainable benchmark while responding to existing building rhythms. Once hidden and uninviting, the front door become a transparent gateway animated with activity. Bright colors and bold patterns from the original palette were reintroduced as super graphics, textiles, and furnishings to differentiate service and learning environments.

The University reports, “People now come to meet with others in social and scholastic gatherings.” It is estimated that three times as many visitors use the library, exceeding expectations. The library evolved into a destination for students to enjoy coffee, conversation, and study, especially important for a population transitioning from commuter to residential. Students affectionately refer to the transformed library as “our space” even crediting it for increasing their GPA’s. New students have cited the “new” library as a reason UMD was their school of choice.

Formed out of concrete, the library’s heroic structure provides a level of durability that will far outlast many typical building materials. Yet this robust material, built without insulation, performed poorly from a sustainability perspective. For both environmental and economic objectives, drastically reducing energy consumption was imperative to the University. The project is eligible for LEED Certification and E0484 MA LEED Plus Compliancy.

Perhaps the greatest act of sustainability was to creatively repurpose the 40 year old structure rather than to demolish and replace it. This strategy also proved to be financially sustainable, creating a 'new' learning environment at half the cost of replacement. The project was achieved for under $250/SF while the library remained in operation through four phases of construction.
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