The New Jesse M. Smith Memorial Library
"Cornerstone of the Community"

11 September 2006

Some words from our chief architect

We asked Jay Litman, chief architect of the new library, to briefly share some of his thoughts on the new library. Jay is with the award-winning firm of Newport Collaborative Inc., which the Building Committee chose (and the Town Council unanimously approved) based on their extraordinary design and the fact that they would give us the best value for the dollar.

Read this, and you can share our enthusiasm that NCA was selected!

Jay tells us:

``Overall the new Jesse Smith Community Library will fit into its historical industrial setting, respond to this wonderful riverside siting opportunity, and be capable of rising to the challenges of the 21st century.

``The site selected for the Library in the 2003 Master Plan is along the Clear River just south of the East Avenue Bridge. The building has been sited to allow for the creation of a River Walk along the waters edge to provide views of the waterfall from various areas within the library. The River Walk is accessed from stairs and a ramp from East Avenue and from a pedestrian concourse that runs by the community meeting rooms in the library from the main entrance out to the River. This is a truly unique site. No other library in Rhode Island can claim a siting facing a waterfall with these urban amenities.

``The transformation from an industrial wasteland, a blight on this area of Burrillville, to a new town center will be dramatic and will open an entire new neighborhood in the center of historic Harrisville

``Because the site contains not only the old Stillwater Industrial Mills but a history of historic mills literally crushed and buried underground right back to the early Tinkham Mill we will need to peel back the 18-inch thick concrete crust encasing the site and dig down through the years right down to the original brown sand of the site and then build the grade back up to a level about 3-4 feet above current grade. In the process all excavated materials will need to be sorted and crated off to a landfill or crushed and used as reprocessed fill on the site

``The massing of the new building is based on the pattern of industrial development of the mill building structures that existed historically in the Stillwater Mill Complex. These patterns show large shed-like buildings linked together with other support buildings at different angles and shapes as needed. For instance the Dye House was linked to the Rinsing Shed which was connected to the Weaving Shed and so forth.

``These patterns are intriguing and as we found, naturally lend themselves to the organization of a modern Library structure. This is a complicated site with few 90-degree angles. The building massing grew from these older patterns allowing for frontage along the river to the east. The Main Reading Room faces East Avenue to the North and the two-story Community Meeting Center and Children’s Library faces the new circulation road. The leisure reading and reference areas were planned to have saw-tooth shaped, north facing clerestory lights, reminiscent of the skylight monitors found on the weaving sheds in the old textile mills. This saw tooth shape is then employed in vertical windows along the River Lounge to maximize natural light and views of the river.

``The design scheme for the library follows the goals set forth in the Stillwater Mill Master Plan, which is to preserve the best of the original mill buildings and unite the various separate parcels into a single master plan linked by a common road system, shared parking, integrated parks, and a pedestrian circulation system.

``The cost of the project, particularly of the site related reconstruction increased in scope as the project progressed. The extra expense however buys all new underground utilities, a complex site clean-up, beautification of the river and a new neighborhood in town complete with a river walk, landscaping and a new street leading to the library and the other new buildings projected for this site.

``The building has been designed using a institutional grade of materials and design. Institutional buildings are designed for public use so they are expected to have a life cycle of 25-50 years and are designed to be expanded in future years. The Jesse Smith Library, though not ostentatious, has been designed with many modern and design amenities such as a separate community meeting center, public concourse and gallery spaces and a dedicated collection/reading room designed in the flavor of the region with exposed timber framed bow-arch trusses.’’