Bibliotopia in Tiverton

Tiverton Public Library, designed by Union Studios, in Providence. (Union Studios)

Tiverton Public Library, designed by Union Studios, in Providence. (Union Studios)

Tiverton, which faces the twin threat of a mega-retail/residential development and a new casino amid its charms, may rejoice that it has a beautiful new public library under its belt. When the design was shown to me several years ago I said to myself, “Not gonna happen!”

Essex Library. (tivertonlibrary.org)

Essex Library. (tivertonlibrary.org)

But there it is in all its glory. The Providence Journal, in Christine Dunn’s story “A new chapter begins for town’s public library,” reports that 500 new library cards have been issued since its opening in June. Also, it came in $500,000 below its $11 million budget. At 23,886 square feet, the new library dwarfs its cute predecessor, the Essex Library.

The photo above shows a library that breathes in the traditionally bucolic character of the town. Tiverton is among the loveliest names for a place, and its architecture should reflect the quiet beauty that is its brand.

Designed by Union Studios, in Providence, with Douglas Kallfelz as lead architect, the library’s arched and gabled entry portico features a tower with decorative arches etched into its sides that reflect those of the portico. At the other end, special spaces inside the library are highlighted with gabled bays connected by a terrace behind its own three arches. The design’s simplicity belies the size and complexity of the interior, which has about six times the room as the Essex, which remains.

They say architecture is the great unsung happiness of life. Well, these days that is debatable, but when when a work of design manages to express the pleasure of reading while accommodating the heavier burden that libraries take upon themselves in the modern era, well, it’s no wonder that the market for library cards is in growth mode!

Let us hope Tiverton can thwart the twin evils headed its way – but if the town is not thrice lucky, its leaders should propose that the twin evils (the “mall” and the casino) are made to parade in the falseface of beauty.

(Here is the deep skinny on the new library, “The Story of Tiverton’s Quarter-Century Crusade to Build a New Public Library,” by Gina Macris for the Rhode Island Library Report.)

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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