Director’s Blog

A New Face for an Aging Gem: Rehabilitating the Main Library

Kevin Davis : May 22, 2012 9:57 am : Director's Blog

Many of you have noticed some of the changes to the library space over the past year or so.  While we get regular comments about the improvements, I realized that I have never explained to a broad audience what we are actually doing.  We really DO have a plan!

To start, I would like to talk briefly about the work currently underway to enhance the Main Library’s exterior.

Overall, our goal is to bring the Main Library building back closer to its original appearance, when it opened in 1966.  At the time, the building was hailed as an excellent example of functional modern architecture and was, for the time, one of the most modern buildings in the state of Maine.

Main Library Concept Art, 1965

While some of the features shown in the concept art above never made it (the reflecting pools and fountains in the front, for example) the bulk of the building itself was built as shown, and remains fundamentally unchanged today.

However, nature and poor maintenance choices have left the building more than a little less striking than it was originally…

Main Library Exterior, 2011

Left to their own devices for 46 years, shrubs grow a little more than anyone ever intended for them to.  In addition, a poor color choice in pairing the building, robbed it of its unique “one piece shell” appearance, which can be seen in the original design.  With the roofline painted blue, the building no longer give the impression of a solid shell encapsulating a glassed in interior – now it’s just a roof, walls and windows.  Also, the growth had completely obscured the incredible stonework around the building’s foundation – a feature which, honestly, we were not even aware was under there!

At this point, the old, overgrown, plantings are gone and, any day now, you will begin to see the new plantings go in.  The new landscape plan calls for low-profile, slower-growing, easy to maintain plantings to go in along the building’s perimeter.  The plantings have been chosen specifically to accent and highlight the architecture, not to cover it.

In addition, with the overgrowth cleared, we are working toward having the exterior of the building completely refinished.  Our plan is to restore the original appearance of the building – with roofline and side walls matching in color.

In a fortuitous stroke of luck, the building’s original architect – John Leasure – happened to notice the clearing of the overgrowth this spring and got in touch with me.  I’ve greatly enjoyed the opportunity to hear from him his thoughts on the building’s design and hope that he’ll do us the honor of helping us pick the color scheme for the repainting.

So, for those who were wondering, that’s what’s going on with the outside of the building!

As always, I always welcome your feedback and can be reached at:

Director@SouthPortlandLibrary.com

or on Twitter @SoPoLibrary

Thanks,

Kevin

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