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158 Bowen Street, detail

Fleet Library at RISD, Adaptive Reuse/Material Conservation/New Design/Institutional Award, 15 Westminster Street

Historic preservation meets a state-of-the-art library in the recently opened Fleet Library at RISD. The Italian Renaissance-style banking hall in the Hospital Trust Bank Building was donated to RISD in 2002 by FleetBoston Financial Corporation. RISD was confronted with the challenge of adapting the spacious banking hall to serve as a functioning library to house its collection of art and design volumes, magazines, and multimedia resources. In addition to these resources, the library also includes space for group study areas, classrooms, a café, and administrative offices.

RISD contracted with architectural design firm Office dA of Boston. The firm faced the task of integrating several diverse elements and features into 55,000 square feet of usable space, four times the size of the former library. The resulting design made 117,000 volumes accessible in the stacks.

Project contributors include Shawmut Design and Construction; Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger, Inc.; Harry Grodsky & Co., Inc.; Dykeman Electrical; Hogan Macaulay Architects; and Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle, Ltd. The new Fleet Library at RISD preserves the historic context of the Hospital Trust Bank Building while integrating functional, modern elements that compliment the character of the original architecture and design. The relationship between old and new in this space is harmonious and an excellent example of adaptive reuse of a historic space.