Groundbreaking kicks off Smith College’s Neilson Library project

  • Architectural designer Maya Lin addresses the crowd at last Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the renovation of Smith College’s Nielson Library. The library is expected to open again in 2020.

Published: 10/23/2017 11:06:41 PM

NORTHAMPTON — If its renovation and redesign is completed on schedule, students will be able to use the new Neilson Library at Smith College in the fall of 2020.

And Katherine Rowe has a good idea what they will be thinking about as they study there.

“They’re thinking: I made the greatest choice of college,” said Rowe, the college’s provost and dean of faculty said at a groundbreaking for the library’s redesign last Thursday featuring well-known architectural designer Maya Lin.

Hundreds of people gathered for the ceremonial event. Among the speakers were Rowe, Lin, trustees chairwoman Deborah Duncan, and President Kathleen McCartney, and the project’s lead architectural designer.

“Her design is warm and rich, and accessible and perfect for us,” Duncan said, referring to Lin.

Lin is most famous for designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C.

She received an honorary degree from Smith in 1993 and her mother, Julia Chang Lin, is an alumna who graduated in 1951. In her remarks, Lin revealed that her mother had lived at Gardiner House while attending Smith.

“Could I get a tour of Gardiner House after this?” she asked.

A prominent feature of the redesign will be its “jewel box” wings, which Lin said were inspired by the land around it and the Olmstead plan campus design, which dates back to the late 19th century.

First built in 1909, the library had additions added to it in 1962 and 1982, which the “jewel box” wings will be replacing.

“This project has been done as a work of absolute love,” Lin said.

She also said that it will house the greatest collection of women’s history in the world.

“The new Neilson will be a work of art,” said McCartney. “Stone, wood, glass and light, will link the building to the surrounding environment and ground it in principles of sustainability.”

“In truth, I don’t know how I’m going to wait three years to help cut that ribbon,” she continued.

Indeed, McCartney wasn’t the only person eager to unveil the finished product.

“I wish it was here for you tomorrow,” Lin said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


Copyright © 2019 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy