Just beside fine tower at the corner of Washington Road and Ivy Lane, a library is rising from the ground.
Construction on the new science library, a glass-and-steel structure that may redefine campus architecture, is proceeding on schedule and slated for completion in the spring of 2007, project officials say.
Last week, the University named Skanska USA to manage the construction, a $50-million contract for the company.
"There's nothing else like it in the world," said Skanska USA spokesperson Caroline Buquet.
The Peter B. Lewis Science Library, designed by noted Los Angeles-based architect Frank Gehry, will consolidate collections from the departments of geosciences, chemistry, ecology and evolutionary biology (EEB) and molecular biology for the first time.
Excavation of the site at the corner of Ivy Lane and Washington Road has been completed, and concrete footings are about to be put into place, Project Manager Henry Thomas said.
Skanska USA is familiar to both the University and Gehry. The firm worked on the renovation and expansion of the Marquand art library in 2003, and collaborated with Gehry Partners on the Stata Center at MIT last year.
"We have worked with Gehry architects before and it was a pleasure for us," Buquet said.
The interior structure of the building will contain steel, concrete and brick, but its distinguishing feature will be the interlocking stainless steel panels that will encase its walls and roofing.
"It's a fairly unique and special design," Thomas said.
Gehry is best known for the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain, distinguished by the shimmering titanium panels of its exterior. Peter B. Lewis '55, the auto-insurance magnate who donated $60 million to support the library's construction, has underwritten other Gehry projects in the past, including the management school building at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Lewis also funded the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics located in the Carl Icahn Laboratory.
Though some architects have questioned whether Gehry's metallic modernism fits in with the Collegiate Gothic style of many buildings on the Princeton campus, project planners said one of their prime objectives was to integrate the site with surrounding buildings. Bob Barnett, the vice provost for University space planning who worked with Gehry Partners to draw up plans for the library, said the building will provide an architectural design link between Frist Campus Center, the football stadium, Fine Hall and the Center for Jewish Life.
The library "was given a height dimension to relate to Fine Hall next door," Thomas said. The library's central tower, flanked by two wings, will rise to about one-half of the height of Fine Tower.
Thomas said he was unconcerned by the contrast between Gehry's science library and Whitman College, designed in the Gothic style by architect Demetri Porphyrios, now under construction behind Dillon Gym.
"It is exciting to see both coming up at the same time," he said. "One is designed to utilize the Collegiate Gothic style, while the other is a more modern-day, cutting edge architectural design."
Dotti Pearson, associate librarian for administrative services, said that as construction on the exterior of the building has progressed, the focus of planners has shifted to the layout of the interior.
The library will rise to five stories, including a basement in which most of the books will be shelved. It will connect to Fine Hall through a basement doorway so that library users can move freely between the buildings.
"The building is designed so that as you go to upper floors, it becomes a more quiet space," Pearson said. "There will be a lot of student spaces for different kinds of study," including group study rooms, carrel spaces and small precept rooms, she said.
OIT plans to move some of its services to the new library. An area for vending machines and coffee is slated as well.
The main entrance to the building will be on the first floor on Ivy Lane, with computer terminals and a full-service desk nearby.
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