Library Reopens Tomorrow. You’ll Love What You See!

Phase I of the Westport Library‘s Transformation Project is complete.

When the lower level reopens tomorrow — after a 12-day hiatus to move books from the upper level, and finish the massive construction job — patrons will note a difference that’s night and day.

Almost literally.

The dark, poorly laid out Riverwalk level has been completely redesigned. It’s light, airy, dynamic and interactive. Inside and out work together, inviting everyone to explore, relax, work together or alone, or simply enjoy the river and trees.

Here’s a preview, courtesy of superb photographer — and longtime Westport Library lover — Lynn Untermeyer Miller.

Henry Myerberg of HMA2 Architects has cleverly integrated the exterior and interior. The “porthole” above, for example, honors the riverside location, while subtly reminding users of the library’s logo and color scheme.

Large windows replace the lower walkway that led past the old video collection and offices. As you walk to the new entrance, you see action inside.

Indigenous vegetation and new pathways lead to the lower entrance.

The new entrance that says “WEST” faces west …

… and “PORT” as it faces the river. Westport Library director Bill Harmer admires new plantings just out of the frame.

Here’s one of the reading nooks. Formerly staff offices, they’ve been reimagined completely. Globe lamps mirror those on the riverwalk outside.

Stacks have been moved downstairs. But — like Manhattanhenge, where a few times a year you see the sun set directly at the end of every avenue — there are stunning views from all aisles. Each table has many outlets to recharge devices.

The children’s section moves temporarily downstairs, until the upstairs renovation is done. Special chairs — with words like “Make” and “Read” — are part of the new attractions.

Also housed temporarily in the Riverwalk level: a program room, the Maker Space and cafe.

Still under construction: a “grand staircase,” leading to another entrance (upper left). It will bring patrons into the upper level, near where the teen section used to be. The staircase will also serve as terraced seating: a place to meet, or enjoy the panoramic view of Jesup Green and the river.

The plaza at the bottom of the grand staircase can function as a program space too. Benches at the bottom will be lit at night. There are even outlets to recharge devices, 24/7. Meanwhile, the design of the pavers is meant to evoke the spines of books …

… which is echoed in the tiles on the walls of the new bathrooms. Designers of the “new” Westport Library have thought of everything.

Especially what it means to be a library in Westport in the 21st century.

(NOTE: The Riverwalk level will function as the “interim library” while construction begins upstairs, on Phase II. The project is on schedule — and on budget — for final completion next June. Hat tip: Lynn Untermeyer Miller.)

6 responses to “Library Reopens Tomorrow. You’ll Love What You See!

  1. Michael Calise

    Spectacular! Checked it out this morning. In the early 80s when the Library was first built at this site It was designed by a NYC Architectural firm. When they appeared before the Architectural Review Board with their proposed design we asked why they had ignored the river in their layout. They looked at us as if we had green skin and had just arrived from Mars. Successive redesigns over the years have gradually stamped out the original flaws but this new design, at least on this lower level, is truly over the top! Congratulations to all who participated in this rendition. We can all be very proud.

  2. Larry Weisman

    The spectacular results of the library’s transformation project are due in large measure to the time, money, expertise and persistence of a receptive board of trustees, a cooperative town government, a generous public, a talented architect and an efficient team of contractors and owners’ representatives. But, it should be noted that the inspiration and driving force behind the project is Bill Harmer, whose optimism, determination, untiring effort and leadership motivated others and galvanized the effort.. Thanks Bill.

  3. John Hartwell

    Bill Harmer’s leadership on this project has been incredible. We had a great library before; now we will have one that’s world class.

  4. Dorothy Rolla

    Dear Dan, yes the new library seems to have thought about everything, but what about the “Betty Lou Tiles” that were on the lower level wall? Dorothy Rolla


  5. This is a stunning vision that has been well-executed with a very strong eye to users needs, expectations and utility. In a town of so many missed opportunities and community services eclipsed by so many neighbors, this truly is a crown jewel.

    I hope the town can link up an arts center and the Sr. center on a unique “community-thoroughfare” (to replace our failing chain store-bank landscape).

    I am heartened and heartily applaud the folks, particularly the board and leadership, who made this happen. The Board must be one heck of a group! – Chris Woods

  6. Chris Garrity

    Beautiful !!