Princeton University Library/Firestone Library

Architects: O’Connor and Kilham

Date of Construction: 1946-1948

Materials: Mt. Airy Granite; reinforced concrete; Rustic Buff Limestone; Wissahickon Schist

Use: Library

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The Princeton University Library straddles both tradition and modern. In 1946, a $10 million library was commissioned. The interior was to be up-to-date and modern but the exterior was to meld with the collegiate Gothic revival of the campus.(1) The tendency toward Gothic ended here and the library was the last building to be built in that vernacular and upon its completion it was decided that Gothic construction was not a future option.(2)

Although the building is stone clad, there are Modern elements that show through. There are huge square and rectangular windows that are girded in steel that allow in natural light and those inside to view the campus. Although the library is designed with a Gothic tower and stone tracery, there is an attempt to make a compromise between moving the campus architecture forward and the call for tradition. Most importantly, the few Modern elements help bridge the disconnect between the modern interior and the Gothic exterior.

(1) Greiff, Constance M., Mary W. Gibbons, Elizabeth G. G. Menzies. Princeton Architecture, A Pictoral History of the Town and Campus. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1967. 178.

(2) Greiff, Constance M.. 178.

“Firestone Library”. Princeton University, An Interactive Campus History 1746-1996. Princeton University. n.d. Web. 627 April, 2011.


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