The Lewis Walpole Library, a department of Yale University Library contains collections of Horace Walpole, along with significant holdings of eighteenth-century British books, manuscripts, prints, drawings, and paintings, as well as important examples of the decorative arts. The collection, along with the eighteenth-century Farmington, CT estate was donated to Yale by Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis and Annie Burr Lewis in 1980. It created a quandary since the historic house and its twentieth-century additions were ill-suited to the needs of a major research institution.
Collections were at risk from inadequate environmental control and were susceptible to fire and flood damage. Care had to be taken that the modernization and expansion of the Library respect its historic setting. Priorities were identified: preserve and conserve the collection, improve access to the collection for scholars, and improve the historic integrity of the site and buildings.
The new addition was designed to resemble a New England barn, connected to the original eighteenth-century house. It contained improved reading spaces, highly controlled environmental conditions, exhibition and teaching spaces, and staff work spaces. It was also sensitive to the existing buildings, the site and the community and was committed to be "green" with regards to material selection, construction processes and ways in which collections readers and staff would inhabit the space. It also supports the goal of both Yale and the University Library in increasing access to collections, both print and digital.
The jury said, "A very sensitive contextual intervention into an established country setting with dignity and charm . . ."
Project Team: Yale University with Centerbrook Architects and Planners; Altieri Sebor Wieber, M/E/P; Gibble Norden Champion brown, structure engineering; Philip R. Sherman, code consultant; Milone & MacBroom, civil engineering; Stephen Stimson Associates, landscape architecture; Atelier Ten, lighting consultant; JLC Preconstruction & Estimating Services, LLC, cost consultant and PAC Group, LLC, contractor.