just a few photos of many beautiful libraries in Massachusetts (Boston, Gloucester, Quincy, Beverly, Middleton)
As do towns! The proposed new building (Dore & Whittier/Matt Oudens) related to the Sawyer Free Library is landing at the tail end of the visioning trend called out in this Atlantic article by Alia Wong:
“College Students Just Want Normal Libraries: Schools have been on a mission to reinvent campus libraries—even though students just want the basics.”
“Yet much of the glitz may be just that—glitz. Survey data and experts suggest that students generally appreciate libraries most for their simple, traditional offerings: a quiet place to study or collaborate on a group project, the ability to print research papers, and access to books.”
“So-called digital natives still crave opportunities to use libraries as libraries, and many actively seek out physical texts—92 percent of the college students surveyed in a 2015 study, for example, said they preferred paper books to electronic versions. (Plus, a growing body of evidence shows that physical books and papers are more conducive to learning than digital formats are.) The dean of learning and technology resources at one of the six campuses of Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) recently told me about a student he had met: Upon learning that her campus library had only the e-book version of a text she needed to read, the woman opted to make the trek to another campus a nearly half-hour commute away that had the hard copy. A 2016 survey of students at Webster University in Washington, D.C., also illustrates limited use of digital resources, finding that just 18 percent of students accessed e-books “frequently” or “very frequently,” compared with 42 percent who never used them.
“Duke University’s 2016 survey of its students drew similar conclusions, finding that book delivery was one of the most important services to students; fancy library services such as instant messaging or data-visualization help fell much lower on students’ priority lists. A separate, years-long project on community-college students by the NOVA dean and a team of researchers found that respondents “most often view the library as the service provider they would likely go to” for an array of bread-and-butter needs, such as help gathering research for a paper, registering for classes, or applying for financial aid. Demand for access to devices such as 3-D printers and virtual-reality headsets was relatively low; respondents tended to highlight the need for reliable Wi-Fi instead.
“Many college libraries are reinventing themselves, but perhaps they’re trying to fix an institution that isn’t, in fact, broken…”
Please join us for the September artists and writers Cape Ann Reads reception 6-8pm September 19th, 2019 on the main floor at Sawyer Free Library. The event will feature Claire Wyzenbeek, the Invited Artist for the Gloucester venue. Wyzenbeek will kick off the opening with a brief overview of her work, especially the beautiful and enigmatic Water and Lunar series on view for this exhibition.
Cape Ann Reads Invited Artist
Selections from Lunar and Water series
New paintings 2018-19
“Water is the wellspring of life. Living near the sea in Gloucester, where the moon calls the tides to rise and fall, where my garden is parched or flooded by the rain, I feel the water is everywhere around and within me.
Our bodies and feelings are fluid. The elation of floating in a calm bay, the release of tears flowing in grief, the vaporous clouds pregnant with rain all appear in my work as symbols of multiple experiences. Rising Tides and Beneath are about climate change, but also about emotions and relationships. The Rain paintings were responses to the sorrows of loss. My figures and landscapes reflect life’s juxtapositions of love and suffering, awe and anguish, that flow through our internal and external worlds.”- Claire Wyzenbeek
Claire Wyzenbeek is the invited artist for the Gloucester venue of the “Once Upon a Contest” travel exhibition presented by the four libraries of Cape Ann. Wyzenbeek wrote and illustrated an original children’s picture book, Henrietta’s Moon Egg, a distinguished Cape Ann Reads Gulliver book. Wyzenbeek works in a variety of media with a current focus on building up layers of acrylic wash. She maintains two studios; one at her residence in Gloucester and a second in Beverly where she teaches art classes.
Next week at the library, Wyznebeek will bring her award-winning children’s book Henrietta’s Moon Egg to a special Story time with Christy, Director of Children’s Services, September 25, 2019.
Last Chance! These must see 2019 shows are closing soon: Don’t miss ICA Watershed Purple (installation view above) closing September 2; DeCordova New England Biennial and the Provincetown Art Association & Museum’s 1945 Chaim Gross exhibition close September 15; and catch Renoir at the Clark before it’s gone September 22nd.
A few of the listed upcoming exhibitions to note: the NEW building and exhibits at PEM are opening September 2019; Homer at the Beach is on display at Cape Ann Museum thru December 1 (and catch a Richard Ormond lecture on John Singer Sargent’s Charcoals Sept.28 at Cape Ann Museum (ahead of the Morgan exhibition opening October); three new shows opening at MFA; Gordon Parks at Addison; and Alma Thomas at Smith. A Seuss-focused experience was pronounced destined for Boston, ahead of its TBD venue, by the LA entertainment company co-founders. Some shows I’ve already visited and may write about, mostly from a dealer’s perspective as that is my background. Exhibition trends continue to evolve and reveal new directions. A few patterns I see in the exhibition titles: what’s annointed for display and how it’s contextualized (corrective labels); immersive exhibits; revisiting colonial methodologies and themes; major solo surveys; women artists (and this upcoming season boost underscoring womens’ suffrage and 100th anniversary of the ratification of women’s right to vote); illustration; environment; and issues of humanity and migration. The list is illustrated with images of the sites. All photographs mine unless otherwise noted. Right click or hover to see info; click to enlarge. – Catherine Ryan
The guide – Massachusetts Museum Guide, Fall 2019
Note from author: The list below is alphabetized by town, and details upcoming exhibitions at each venue as well as some that are closing soon. Click the word “website” (color gray on most monitors) for hyperlinks that redirect to venues. For a list alphabetically sorted by venue, see my Google Map (with a Candy Trail overlay) “Art Museums in Massachusetts” hereand embedded at the end of this post. I pulled the map together several years ago. No apps to download or website jumping. Easy scroll down so you don’t miss an exhibit that’s closer than you think to one that you may already be exploring.A few are open seasonally (summer) or weekends only–call first to check before visiting. Major new architectural building projects are underway at BU (closed) and MIT. The 54th Regiment Memorial on Boston Common will undergo restoration. Get ready for close observation of conservation in process. – Catherine
1. John Greenleaf Whittier historic Home and Museumwebsite
18. Boston Harbor Islands National and State Parkwebsite
(photos show info gateway on the Greenway near the ferry access to Boston Harbor Islands)
Summer 2019 public art: Boston Harbor [Re]creation The Project: Artists Marsha Parrilla; Robin MacDonald-Foley; Brian Sonia-Wallace more(Jury: Luis Cotto MCC; Lucas Cowan, The Greenway; Celena illuzzi, National Parks; Caroly Lewenberg; Denise Sarno-Bucca DCR; Courtney Shape, City of Boston; Rebecca Smerling Boston Harbor Now; Kera Washingon; Cynthia Woo, Pao Arts Center)
Unveiled 2019 – Super A (Stefan Thelen) Resonance, 2019, latex and spray paint
Note to Greenway (see photo notes below): food trucks by the stop should be relocated to other food truck areas (and maybe one tree) to optimize and welcome sight line to the Greenway and public spaces from streets, sidewalk, and South Station. There are pauses elsewhere along the lattice park links, and a generous approach past the wine bar. The temporary commissioned mural could extend verso (or invite a second artist) so that the approach from Zakim Bridge/RT1/93North is as exciting as the approach from Cape Cod.
Skip the app AI download– swamped my phone battery despite free WiFi on the Greenway.
See complete list of 2019 public art currently on view at The Greenway here
The Greenway packs a lot of punch in a compressed area; its lattice of dynamic public spaces and quiet passages are an easy stroll into the North End or along the HarborWalk to the ICA, roughly similar in size and feel as walking Battery Park and Hudson River Park in New York City.
24. Innovation and Design building (aka Boston Design Building makeover in process in winter 2016 photos posted here) website
Through September 2, 2019 at The Water Shed, ICA Boston John Akomfrah: Purplemore
What’s coming in 2020 to The Water Shed? Still TBA
Through September 22, 2019 ICA Less Is a Bore: Maximilist Art & Designmore
Nice installation with a few surprises and thoughtful connection to other exhibtions on view. (The LeWit and Johns selections triggered what about that work or artist? I wish May Stevens and Harmony Hammond were included and my list grew from there. That’s part of the fun of the exhibit.)
September 24 – February 7, 2021 ICA Yayoi Kusama: Love is Callingmore
September 24 – February 7, 2021 ICA Beyond Infinity: Contemporary Art after Kusamamore
October 23, 2019 – January 26, 2020 ICA When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Migration through Contemporary Artmore
Through December 31, 2019 ICA 2019 James and Audrey Foster Prize Boston area artists: Rashin Fahandej; Josephine Halvorson; Lavaughan Jenkins; Helga Roht Poznanskimore
Through October 20, 2019 Ship of State…Paintings by Robert Henry
Through December 21, 2019 Interpreting Their World: Varujan Boghosian, Carmen Cicero, Elspeth Halvorsen and Pual Resika
71. The Art Complex Museum (Weyerhaeuser collection) website
August 18 – November 10, 2019 Steve Novick: Approximation
September 15 -January 12, 2020 Draw the Line
September 15 – January 12, 2020 Rotations: Highlights From the Permanent Collection Nocturne including Lowell Birge Harrison (American, 1854–1929), Suzanne Hodes (American, b. 1939), Kawase Hasui (Japanese, 1883–1957), George Inness (American, 1825–1894), Johan Barthold Jongkind (Dutch, 1819–1891) Martin Lewis (American, 1881–1962), and Henri Eugene Le Sidaner (French, 1862-1939)
November 17 – February 16, 2020 George Herman Found Paintings
72. Thornton W. Burgess Society Green Briar Nature Center & Jam Kitchen website *may join Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster to combine and become the Cape Cod Museums of Natural History
On August 15, 2019, Sawyer Free Library hosted a beautiful celebration for Once Upon a Contest. A second reception for the artists and writers will be held on September 19th with an opening talk by Claire Wyzenbeek, the invited artist for this leg of the show. Also, look for upcoming special morning programs featuring Kim Smith, Mary Rhinelander and Claire Wyzenbeek.
Special thanks for photos: credit mostly Linda Bosselman and Justine Vitale, SFL
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Save the date for my upcoming Monarch Butterfly program for kids at the Sawyer Free Library on August 21st at 10am. This program is free and held in conjunction with the Cape Ann Reads exhibit on display at the Sawyer Free.
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Summer reading, new books, ongoing weekly programs, and special summer events: Sawyer Free children’s department is impressive! Families time regular visits to check out and return books with an array of fun plans. Rick Roth and crew engendered smiles and gasps with snakes from New England and the world on July 27, 2019.
Captures from Assistant librarian and wonderful photographer Linda Bosselman
With the crowds at capacity year round, the children’s library is ideal on this level.
Imagine using stairs and the elevator to access the crush of ongoing and popular children’s programs on a proposed top floor of a proposed new building (review plans here). Sawyer Free has appropriated $935,000 from the endowment for a fundraising firm to assist with the capital campaign to raise 20 million of a 26 million plus project. Preliminary plans displayed at the annual meeting can be seen here
The childen’s department needs renovation and expansion, and access to its outdoor space again. The future planned terracing limits the public outdoor space and will impact the rich flexibility of so many outdoor options, running around and programs this department made use of since the Monell build.
Reminder – Pop UP Planetarium at City Hall tomorrow July 29,2019 summer 2019 a Universe of Stories (separate reminder post coming)
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Sawyer Free Library (SFL) Children’s Services shares photographs from Curious Creatures program (July 25, 2019), one of many special summer 2019 events amidst regular weekly busy & fabulous children’s programs. Photo credit: Linda Bosselman. Christy Russo is the children’s services director.
Scroll below to see photographs from the teen program held later that day, Galaxy Tie Dye.
Snakes of New England with Rick Roth scheduled tomorrow! Mark your calendar for more summer fun.
Scenes from Sawyer Free Library teen program yesterday, Galaxy Tie-Dye, programming inspired by the 2019 summer reading theme “A Universe of Stories”.
Now that security help is squared away, let’s open that side door back up to its open space and make it easy on these outdoor programs (and patrons) to set up and go.
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Selections from Amy Kerr’s I Am More series on view in beautiful Matz Gallery, Sawyer Free Public Library July 2019. Learn more here
The ongoing series has grown and been displayed in different configurations and groupings at numerous venues, encouraging repeat visits and consideration. Here is an installation view from the iteration at Cape Ann Savings Bank May 2019.
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Today is the anniversary of the first moon landing on July 20, 1969. When I think about this momentous day, I mostly remember the artist Robert Rauschenberg, one of the established artists paid a tiny honorarium to travel to see space launches first hand. NASA gave artists total freedom to create any visual response if so awed. They were. Decades later, Rauschenberg agreed to loan rare works of art inspired by the space program for a solo exhibit that I co-curated. It was a big surprise when he scheduled a visit. He spent a morning at the show with me, closely observing each and every piece, some he hadn’t seen since he made them. Many were created long after his residency. He was flooded; it’s very emotional.
Where were you on this day? I was in Plymouth, MA.
As i’m in a wishing and reflective mode, may I add that I look forward to the day when all Massachusetts newspapers are scanned and searchable. In the meantime, the Gloucester Daily Times coverage of that inspiring moon walk is on microfilm at the Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Library. Enjoy the headlines and some local quotes from 1969.
“Older folks take moon in stride–They’ve seen a lot, but this one…” by Henry Meyer, Gloucester Daily Times
article excerpts including quotes from Arthur Jones, Mrs. Bertha Silva, and John Bordreau (91)
This moon shot business: Can you dig it? Arthur W. Jones, 67, who lives at the Huntress Public Medical Institution can. Jones and some of his fellow residents on Emerson Avenue have seen the entire panorama of the development of aircraft… “This is one of the greatest things that has happened to our country.” The moon shot had helped to “unite people together,” he said…“When this country gets together, they do things right. No matter what they start, they finish it.”
Mrs. Bertha Silva said that Lindbergh’s flight was exciting back then. However she agreed with Jones that the landing of the first man on the moon really outdid all other flying feats…
John Bordreau, 91, also a resident of the institution was delighted by the whole affair. Boudreau predicted that astronauts soon will be flying all over the solar system…”We’ll just have to wait and see where they’re headed.” Both Jones and Boudreau said they had heard there was oil and gas on the moon. Boudreau remarked, “That’s kind of a long drive for just a couple of gallons of gas. Jones predicted that within 10 years men will be living on the moon. Some scientists said over the radio that there were eaves on the moon where people might live. He said there was oil up there and that they might be able to extract water from rocks.”…One person said that at her age she tended to be leery of these things…Others expressed confusion at the speed at which this generation seems to be moving…
excerpts from Our men on the moon: ‘A long day’…a hazardous return, by Edward K. Delong, Space Center, Houston, UPI article ran in the Gloucester Daily Times.
Mrs. Stephen Armstrong, Neil’s mother who watched her son on television from her home in Wapakoneta, Ohio, noticed this: “I could tell he was pleased and tickled and thrilled,” she said.
“Magnificent desolation,” commented Aldrin. “It has a stark beauty all of its own. It’s much like the desert of the United States.”
“It’s different, but it’s very pretty out here,” said Armstrong, who lived in California’s Mojave Desert when he was flying the X15 rocket plane. Armstrong and Aldrin, both about 5’11” cast 35 foot shadows…Zint said he was surprised by the emotion in Armstrong’s voice when he stepped onto the moon. “That was more emotion than I’ve ever heard him express before. Even when he talked about things he was excited about like space travel he always had a calm voice.”
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Harry and the Potters. They’ve been around for a while (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_and_the_Potters), and they basically started what people now call ‘Wizard Rock’. They recorded their latest album last summer with Tony at Bang-A-Song Studios, and loved the town and everything so much that they’re kicking off their tour here with a free show at the Sawyer Free Library next Friday, June 21st at 7pm (which they announced in Rolling Stone).
ANYHOW, the library just got permission to have the show outside, and we really want people to come out and enjoy it. I know Joey loves it when non-local people give it up for Gloucester, and these guys are definitely in that camp. So, I’m hoping you can help me spread the word. We’re just really excited they’re coming!
2 Dale Ave Gloucester, Massachusetts Get Directions
This photo chronicle begins with scenes from the Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library 2019 Annual meeting, including views of the concept proposal for renovation and addition intended for the library as they appeared in the feature presentation that evening with some brief analysis. The second part of the piece provides background about the American architect, Donald F. Monell, and visual context regarding his designs for the library expansion built in 1973 and largely ignored through this current new build consideration. Links to several reference documents relevant to this process are collected and provided at the end. (This update is part of an ongoing series published on GMG.)
Annual meeting – Arriving/settling in
About 85 people including Trustees with guests, library personnel, and marketing and architectural representatives were present for the Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library’s Annual Meeting on May 20, 2019. (click individual photos to see full size)
Mayor Romeo Theken, Library Dir. Deborah Kelsey, and Trustee Chair John Brennan welcomed the public. Brennan thanked several Trustees for long service and welcomed new ones.
Deborah Kelsey presented the Mary Weissblum Smith Volunteer Award to Susan Oleksiw and Christy Park in recognition of their curation and management of the Matz Gallery rotating exhibitions over the past five years and their notable careers. Ironically, in the new concept plans, there is no Matz Gallery and limited art space. Read more about Matz’s philanthropy and work in Gloucester here. The major works from the art collection continue to be off view and similarly unaccounted for in future plans.
Financial Statement YR 2017-18
The library’s treasurer explained that the Annual Meeting financial reports always illustrate the prior year rather than the one just completed. So for this 2019 annual meeting, the report reflects May 2017- May 2018. He explained next year’s will represent the year 2018-19 and will show red and depletion of the 6 million endowment. Former board members asked about expenses to date, related to the new build, and itemization of the Trustee expenses line item, which was not in use when they served. A trustee explained that a title more accurately reflecting those expenses would be helpful. Reports will be shared.
Architect’s renderings / Oudens-Ello (with Dore & Whittier for library and MBLC)
The 25 million+ quoted for the concept plan does not include preservation of the original heart and soul of the library, the Saunders building, or any mention of the library’s fine art. A recent estimate for potential Saunders preservation begins at 3 million– which would be in addition to any work done elsewhere with the library.
Stairs and more stairs
Design inspiration did not come from Saunders or Monell. (I asked.) One of the stated goals was striving to continue to make the library accessible for all, although in my opinion since the first presentation years ago, this design undercuts that aim.
Because of gentle switchback steps, currently there is technically no “accessible for all” direct entry from Dale to the Main Floor, or from Middle Street. The accessibility option from Dale curves around to a side* and back entrance. If that level is not the destination, patrons continue to the elevator.
Increasing all of the buildings’ gateway capacities is a fantastic goal. I do not understand how a concept with such tremendous staircase emphasis will remedy that expression of accessibility for all, or ease patron flow. The monumental scale of the three-story glass central stairwell takes up the transition volume between the original Monell and concept addition, and looms larger than the current Monell atrium. In this concept, children’s and teen spaces will be on the top floor. Crowd flow of all ages will need to access the elevator from the ground floor near the back entrance. Once upon a time the children’s wing was on the top floor of the Saunders building and intentionally moved to a space on the ground level. Currently, children’s services is on the ground floor. Friends and librarians using Reading and Salem libraries are not fans of children’s spaces on the top floor.
*The side entrance was sealed off this year due to safety concerns which can be helped by architecture and staff. The new security officers received the biggest applause of the night.
Glass staircase design statements — stacked cantilevered and floating– are common features in malls, retail, and transportation (airports!) hubs, often with escalator options, and ample budgets for cleaning staff. They’re not super kid friendly or easy to clean. For this concept, the staircase massing can be greatly reduced and favorably impact the footprint, cost and siting. I’ve written about the odd flow of moving the library’s busy children’s services up to the top level in this proposal. Just one of Christy Russo’s daily programs may bring in 20 to 80 kids and their grown-ups!
Moving to elevator and stairs with or without strollers will increase flow inefficiency dramatically, and be a disservice to an evergreen and engaged population. Children’s could be flipped back to the ground floor, with or without a separate teen space on this level. Research and multi use rooms requested for “21st century programming needs” could be dispersed throughout the expanded upper levels. Safety issues and bathrooms can be addressed on any floor. The librarians have been patiently awaiting remodeling and interior update and upgrades on the ground floor since 2012. The build out goal of 2026 or later is too long! They need more space, a functioning and better test kitchen, and major bathroom renovations (yesterday!).
Oudens Concept plan Timeline
ETA library tentative opening 2026
SFL Library atrium, architect Donald F. Monell
Monell building, top floor, no artificial light, no filter: looking across atrium with presentation underway on Main Floor as this space was being described again as an uninviting dark hole.
Design inspiration and high bar – Saunders House and Monell
For nearly 190 years, the Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library has played a key role in the cultural life of the city of Gloucester and the Commonwealth. Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library features not one but three iconic buildings. Investment in building projects with such inspiring history, pedigree, assets, materials and form are indeed a rare and enviable opportunity. Any library build should feature both Saunders and Monell. We are so lucky to have them!
There was worry about the Saunders and Monell buildings, the Stacks, and the Rando Memorial garden when the proposed new building first dropped and as this process continued. Thankfully, a Saunders stewardship committee has been reestablished and the Rando Garden will remain. (There was pushback that the “21st century building” left the community with less green space, not more.) It’s only since last week that razing Monell was taken off the table. And it’s only since February 2019 that the architects began to emphasize green design as they had not realized how valued such criteria was in Gloucester. A workshop was held at the library.
Still, no one involved in the new process was discussing Monell, his inspiration, or influence. Regarding the library 2019 green visionaries—Monell may be more important to them than they realize. After all, he was ahead of his time incorporating wind and solar design into public buildings and homes. I’ve been thinking more and more about Monell, his studies and business ventures, his devotion to Gloucester.
Donald F. Monell earned multiple degrees at Bowdoin (BS, 1937) , Royal College of Edinburgh (1938), Tekniska Hogskolan in Stockholm (KTH Royal Institute of Technology), and M.I.T. (MS in city planning,1941 and MS in architecture, 1950). He was a research assistant in City Planning at M.I.T. (1940-41), and a Research Associate in solar energy at M.I.T. from 1949 to 1951. During World War II he served as a Captain with the 333 Engrs. S.S. Regiment in the US Army Corp of Engineers from 1942-46. Prior to setting up his own firm in 1952, he worked as a community planner in Tennessee and for various architectural establishments. His son Alex Monell said that his father declined positions with larger international firms. “He preferred working on a smaller one to one relationship with clients.” Monell’s tenure at M.I.T. coincided with I.M. Pei and Buckminster Fuller; Monell set up his eponymous business two years prior to I.M. Pei. I asked Alex if his father worked with architect Eleanor Raymond. She built her home in Gloucester and had similar interest in sustainable design. She is credited with designing one of the first solar heated houses in 1948 “I know he worked with Maria Telkes (who invented a means to store heat in melted crystals that stored more than water could) on one of their solar homes and now that I looked her up I see the home was designed by Eleanor Raymond! So they knew each other.”
Monell was licensed to practice in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York and was NCARB certified. He was a member of AiA and Boston Society of Architects. He served on Gloucester’s Civic Art Committee beginning in the 1960s. He was a trustee of the Cape Ann Symphony Orchestra, an incorporator of AGH and Cape Ann Savings Bank, and a Vice President of the Cape Ann Museum (then Cape Ann Historical Assoc.). Monell’s office was located in the Brown Building, 11 Pleasant Street. His son remembers visiting his dad on jobs and admiring the hand made scale models. Local residents may recognize the names of Monell hires: Kirk Noyes who preserved Central Grammar and other award winning developments, was a draftsman, and Craig Toftey helped Monell with the Sawyer Free library.
The new building planners describe the need for a 21st century library. What does that mean today? Back in 2012, technology was the big discussion point and the library a possible tandem option for schools. (Elementary school libraries were shuttered and/or volunteer run, and school librarian positions cut.) Since then, libraries in schools became “Learning Commons” with a tech focus. By 2019 Gloucester Public Schools have a 1 to 1 student computer initiative. There was a desire for grounds improvement, since completed and well received with the Rando Memorial. I was asked about helping with a public art comission and how it might work as a play structure, too. Mayor Romeo Theken reminded us of the homes and neighborhood playground where the Monell addition and parking lot were built. Community input suggested opportunities for more outdoor spaces would be welcome, not less. Library design trends recommend co-work and makerspace options so the library is a community center. (Sawyer Free has been a community center since its founding.)
One thought regarding “21st Century” library tech goals: partnerships with M.I.T., Harvard, and Bowdoin could be fruitful and shored up by honoring Monell. Perhaps they’d help facilitate subscriptions to specialized libraries. Coordinating public access to resources like MatLab as one example would enhance “accessibility for all” in a 21st century sort of way.
Monell’s son, Alex, shared a section from M.I.T. President’s Report, 1951, with a reference to his father: “Mr. R. Buckminster Fuller, visiting lecturer, who contributed significantly to this conference, worked this year with the third-year students in architectural design and presented his concept of the “comprehensive designer” in a program emphasizing the relation of structure to design. In August, I950, occurred the five-day symposium on “Solar Energy for Space Heating,” under the auspices of the Godfrey L. Cabot Fund, attended by about 900 persons who were mostly visitors to the Institute. Mr. Donald F. Monell, research associate, was responsible for organization. Speakers included staff members and outside authorities in this field. Professor Lawrence B. Anderson was one of the contributors.”
Don and Lila Monell could be the “Charles and Ray Eames of Gloucester”
Don Monell and Lila Swift should rightly be included on any Massachusetts #MassModernism trail. Monell and Swift, co-founders and collaborators of their own wrought steel furniture design firm in 1950, Swift & Monell, husband and wife, architect and artist, were the Charles and Ray Eames* of Gloucester. Original examples of their woven leather, metal and enamel stools, tables, and bins are rare and placed in collections. The furniture was exhibited at Current Design (now ICA) and Furniture Forum. They operated the business in upstate New York when Monell worked for Sargent Webster Crenshaw & Folley. They built a studio for their business in their home when they moved back to Gloucester in 1952. Initial prototypes and editions were inspired by touring Lawrence Mills with Monell’s brother in law, who worked in the textile industry. Alex clarifies: “I do not know what mill my father’s brother in law was involved in or to what capacity, I just remember my parents toured it and found the source of leather. A Cambridge firm sold them for awhile. And later my parents gifted them as wedding presents to close friends and relatives. Ray Parsons a blacksmith from Rockport often made the frames and later I made some at Modern Heat.”
” Lila Monell print cormorants image used in tribute for Dorothy Adams Brown”
*footnote: Ray Eames was in Gloucester. Before Hans Hofmann settled into teaching in Provincetown, he was invited to teach summer classes at the Thurn School of Art in Gloucester, Massachusetts, in 1933 and 1934. Thurn was a former Hofmann student. Ray Eames studied painting with Hofmann in Gloucester and was a student of his for years. Decades later (during an interview with Ruth Bowman, who was wonderful, and owned a fabulous Gloucester Hopper) Eames mentioned 1940, a later date, for when she first learned about Hofmann. On an architecture timeline- Charles and Ray Eames were born in 1907 and 1912 respectively, and Monell in 1917. They were married about a decade before Monell & Swift and west coast rather than east. Yet they were contemporaries. Art & Architecture case study homes began in 1945 (Eames house, 1949) Eames lounge chairs were manufactured in 1956 (after years of prototypes). Gropius House in Lincoln , Mass., landmark Bauhaus residence now museum was built in 1938, same year as MoMa Bauhaus exhibition. The Graduate school at Harvard designed by Gropius was a TAC (The Architects Collaborative) build in 1950. TAC was founded in 1945 with the clout addition of Gropius who continued with the firm until his death in 1969. Original 7 founders were Norman Fletcher, Louis McMillen, Robert McMillan, Ben Thompson, Jean Fletcher, Sarah Harkness and John Harkness. Twenty years later, Monell’s Plum Cove elementary school design in 1967 was leveraged by partnering with The Architects Collaborative. Gloucester’s Plum Cove school is a TAC build. Wikipedia lists several commissions. The school could be added.
The Monells were friends with many artists and Gloucester residents. They were best friends with Sarah Fraser Robbins which is another rich “green” connection for Sawyer library. The Monells were married at her house and living there when their first son came home! Eventually they built their dream home in Gloucester designed to maximize its stunning natural setting, all granite and ocean views. Their family and business grew. Lila’s art and home are inspired by wild nature, especially birds and insects, often the subject of her prints and photographs, and even wardrobe embellishments. (More than one person recalled a striking faux brooch or embroidery like adornment that was actually a coiled live centipede.) Domestic animals and wild birds were part of the family. There were always pet crows and birds. “Our mother raised geese and guinea fowl,” Alex continued, “Mainly the birds we had were ones she brought to rescue from oil slicks and other calamaties. She was well known as someone to bring an injured bird to.” Lila wrote an article in the Mass Audubon newsletter about two cormorants which she had a permit to raise. “Sarah (Fraser Robbins) had an old lobster boat, never used as one.” Alex recalled. “They used it for fishing. Our families were quite close. We’d head to Norman’s Woe and bring back seagulls. You know, rescue babies, and help teach them to fly.” He said he got them comfortable being tossed like a glider. “They’d come back again and again ready to launch!” It was easy to imagine some glimpse of his childhood in this idyllic setting. His delight brought to mind My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George and Driftwood Captain by Paul Kenyon. Sea and stone. What a playground!
Donald F. Monell Architecture
Monell completed many commissions in Gloucester and elsewhere on the North Shore, New Hampshire and New York. Any renovation and remodel at Sawyer Free is an incredible chance to celebrate his work and honor his legacy. After considering examples of Monell’s architecture it is easy to find his personal design in the work he did at Sawyer Free Library. He was trained as a landscape architect as well which helps to imbue his projects with great sensitivity and gentle passages. Many of his commissions are heavenly sites where buildings serve the surroundings, whether built or natural. His designs are better because of this reverence for context.
(Note on images- double click to enlarge)
Monell architecture – Residences
Monell designed numerous private residences and additions [e.g. Dotty & Lawrence Brown (1957), Laight (1958), Despard (1959), Boyce (1961), Foster, Nydegger, Marietta Lynch, Judy Winslow, Bob and Libby French (1967), Featherstones, John Hays Hammond Jr, and Phil Weld (many)] in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York. Several clients were repeat customers. The Brown home is one example. Alex writes that “the residence was altered by my father in the late 70s to accommodate a library when they moved there year round.” Much of the big collection of books were cookbooks. “Dotty was a great cook and good friends with Julia Child.”
Concord, NH, Early Monell commission had overhead electric radiant heat
windows altered from original design
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round about drives & lily of the valley clustered at entrancesMonell designs
Within a few short years of moving to Gloucester, Robert and Elizabeth ‘Libby’ French expanded their art collection, he was elected Mayor, and they commissioned Monell to design their home and property in 1967. caption: video shows interior/exterior and was published in 2016. I don’t know when it was filmed. Small lovely moments – note the interior staircase railing, and exterior deck and bridge to glacial boulders. Clearly some modifications since it was designed in 1967 and perhaps since this video.
Monell architecture – Public Buildings
Besides the Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library commission, Monell government and public buildings include the Beverly Newspaper factory and offices, Eastern Point Retreat, Plum Cove School, and the Cape Ann Historical Society. Elements of his signature architecture resonate strongly with the work he did at the library.
Eastern Point Retreat House, Dorm & Dining Halls 1960
For the Gonzaga project, Monell joined two buildings and built a cafeteria and dormitories. Recently his original work at the entrance, connector and dormitories was razed. The historic photos BEFORE illustrate his artistry and display a strong connection with the design Monell established at the front of the library on the stacks building between Saunders and the expansion.
BEFORE / AFTER – dorm, far left (ocean side)
BEFORE / AFTER – dorm (parking side)
Microphone were set up to amplify sounds of the ocean (white noise) within the dormitory
BEFORE /AFTER – cafeteria low glass ceiling (ocean side) remains
Plum Cove Elementary School 1966
Monell subcontracted/collaborated with TAC for build
Beverly Newspaper Offices and Factory (now Salem News)
Gloucester Daily Times (1956)
Cape Ann Museum (formerly Cape Ann Historical Society) 1968
Circa 1967 plans for property by Grant Circle
Cape Ann Savings Bank
Monell’s work at Cape Ann Savings Bank has been altered at least 2x since his commission. Here are a couple of placeholder “before” snapshots until I obtain better examples. Before (courtesy photos)/After example – Note changes like the Monell staircase design vs replacement and office additions vs open floor plan. The arch window motif remains.
Signature elements – arches, contrast in materials, rectangles, winding paths
Monell was concerned with getting it right. You don’t have to know about Monell, his body of work or the history of architecture to be moved or respond. His slow designs are considerate of their surroundings, integrating connections with the natural and built environment. Thanks to his gentle, contemplative approach, it feels as though there’s more than enough space even when there isn’t much space to be had.
Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library
When reviewing Monell’s body of work, it’s clear to see that Gloucester’s landscape, history, art and architecture inform his designs. The library’s connector and entrance are signature Monell motifs and beautiful. It’s no accident that the symmetry of the windows at the back of the building echo the five bays of the firestation,
or that they were inspired and reference City Hall, 1867.
No matter which approach one takes to the library, Monell’s consideration of the building and its surroundings is intentional and graceful.