AXINN LIBRARY HOFSTRA UNIVERSITY HEMPSTEAD NY The renovation of the Axinn Library at Hofstra University, the first phase of a multi-phase project, transforms the interior of a dark, worn-out and overcrowded Warner, Burns, Toan & Lunde-designed cast concrete library building into a premiere campus facility that offers students up-to-date comfort and technology, a variety of study venues and effortless access to staff and books. Decades of poorly conceived modifications had encrusted the concrete interior with partitions, sprinkler pipes, and conduit that made the library feel like a parking garage with books. More unfortunately, these ad hoc modifications blocked off stunning views through the floor-to-ceiling first floor windows to the nationally recognized campus-arboretum outside.
Rather than sabotage the intent of the original library building with one alien to it, we amplified its most successful features and fulfilled its lost or unrealized potential. Our approach was to embrace the spirit of the original 1960s brutalist architecture by scraping away past encrustations while overlaying new elements that are open, luminous and fluid to create a contemporary language celebrating the vitality of the library complex - and the University - today.
This initial phase of the building-wide renovation focused exclusively on the first floor of the nine-floor library. The University requested an improved organization of the crowded array of circulation and reference departments, group and private study areas, and reference room. To that, we added a small café in a formerly underused elevator lobby, a controversial but successful choice given the openness of our design and the concern for control. New circulation and reference areas at the main entry were interwoven with a new reading and exhibition area and cafe to make the arrival experience more inviting and less barricaded than before. The fluid new ribbon-like seating, cafe and circulation/reference desk elements are visually related by their luminous faces and almost weightless character. Our intent was to have the new components of the design appear as featherweight counterparts to the dense heaviness of the cast concrete original building. The glow of these elements refracts in the polished stainless steel and glass surfaces of the ceilings and walls, dissolving the hard boundaries of these surfaces and contributing to the impression of openness and vista. The re-opened views to the arboretum outside reinforce the new visual expansiveness that permeates the interior.
All large-scale library furniture, such as reader tables, computer tables, and study carrels, along with all circulation and reference desk millwork, were designed by us to ensure a continuity of character and scale throughout the space. Overall, the renovated library fulfills our intent to meet the students’ social, academic, and research needs equally and contemporarily without breaching the essential character of the original architecture.