Vassar College will celebrate the re-opening following the recent renovation of the Van Ingen Art Library at Vassar College
on Saturday, September 12. The public is invited to attend a panel discussion, A Conversation on Modernism, at 2:30pm in Taylor Hall, room 203.
The panelists will include architectural historian Mardges Bacon, Matthews Distinguished University Professor at Northeastern University, Boston; Principal Architect Charles Platt of Platt Byard Dovell White, who directed the renovation; and Vassar alumnus Christopher Wilk, class of 1976, who is the Keeper of the Furniture, Textiles and Fashion Department at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Nicholas Adams, Mary Conover Mellon Professor of Art, Vassar College, will moderate the discussion.
While event is free and open to the public, seating is very limited. Following the panel discussion, the public may take self-guided tours of the Art Library.
The Vassar College Art Library is a rare example of a complete early modernist interior from the pre-World War II period in the United States. Built in 1937, the interior was designed by John McAndrew, an architect as well as educator, who taught architectural history and drafting in the Vassar College Department of Art from 1931 to 1937.
Of the recent renovation, Professor Adams noted that: "This is a rare example of a historically informed renovation of a modernist building. The architects have succeeded brilliantly in recuperating the past and adapting it to new functions for the present."
According to Art Librarian Thomas Hill, the clarity, openness, and textured warmth of the space is in keeping with the American or what McAndrew termed a "naturalized" version of the machine style, which he would go on to promote in his role as Curator of the Department of Architecture at the Museum of Modern. The design also has elements in common with the streamlined style of Raymond Loewy and Norman Bel Geddes. McAndrew's Art Department colleagues referred to this dynamic and forward-looking space as the expression of a new functionalism in architecture.
As a learning environment it was exactly that, an elegantly-crafted machine in which every surface, volume, and element was shaped and illuminated for the efficient appropriation of a knowledge of the history of art through group and individual study. McAndrew's space has now been carefully renovated to recover its original function through the introduction of new visualization technologies as well as through a restoration of the original interior on designs by another architect/educator, the late Paul Spencer Byard, and his partner Charles A. Platt, of the New York-based firm of Platt, Byard, Dovell & White.
Nicholas Adams, the Mary Conover Mellon Professor of Art, worked with the architects on the recent renovation and his involvement, according to John Mihaly, director of Regional Programs, ensured a close adherence to the fundamental principles and the integrity of the 1930s design.