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CAUSE FOR A PAUSE: The $60 million, 85,000 square-foot Frank Ghery designed science library will surely turn heads. The library, which will combine the book collections from several campus libraries, will also include study space, classrooms, and a cafe.end of caption

University Receives Approval for Gehry Library

Matthew Hersh

The Site Plan Review Advisory Board (SPRAB) gave its support to Princeton University's plan to build a new science library and academic center near the corner of Washington Road and Ivy Lane.

The library, which was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry, will house the book collection currently located in the geology library in Guyot Hall across the street to the proposed library. It will then combine the book collections of the chemistry department and other science libraries. The support allows the University plan to appear before the Regional Planning Board for further review.

The site plan review comes only two weeks after the University appeared before the Regional Planning Board to outline its plans for the construction of Whitman College, a 500-student residence hall. The new library will help accommodate the University's planned undergraduate influx of 500 students by the fall of 2009.

While Whitman College and other structures on the residential part of campus feature an architectural style known as Collegiate Gothic, the proposed science library falls into the realm of modern architecture, such as that seen at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. The library will exhibit Mr. Gehry's style through the use of steel, brick, and glass.

"It's the library of the future," said Jon Hlafter, vice-president of the Office of Physical Planning at the University.

Mr. Hlafter went on to say that the new $60 million, 85,000 square-foot structure will also include study space, classrooms, and a cafe.

The library will also house the University's science collections and will feature digitized maps on file.

Mr. Hlafter said no additional faculty or staff will be added as a result of the new library. Instead, current faculty and staff members will relocate to the new facility.

The issue of parking and traffic circulation quickly made its way to the forefront of the site plan review. Members of SPRAB voiced concern regarding the attraction such a structure would present to those interested in the architecture and overall novel existence of the building.

Member Brian Murdock spoke of traffic bottlenecks that might be caused by the allure of the new building.

Mr. Hlafter said that while the library would be a draw for visitors to the University, he did not foresee a scenario where such an attraction would cause a serious traffic issue in the area. He outlined the plan for a shuttle system that will bring students and visitors to and from the main campus. He also said that ample visitor parking would be available in Lot 21, adjacent to Jadwin Gym.

"There will be 'no parking' signs along Ivy Lane, and indications that parking is available in Lot 21," Mr. Hlafter said. He also cited the existing University policy that requires graduates students with housing assignments at the Lawrence Apartments, Butler Tract Housing, and the Graduate College to use the shuttle system and not their personal cars.

"I say with great confidence that the people in the new building will be parking in [Lot 21]," he said.

Members of SPRAB expressed concern regarding Ivy Lane's capacity to handle traffic for the new facility, and the amount of drive-by traffic the structure will attract because of its unique design and architecture. But Mr. Hlafter again referred to Lot 21 and that visitors will be parking at that location and not along Ivy Lane.

Borough Engineer Carl Peters said he felt there is a need for improved pedestrian and cyclist access from the main campus across Washington Road. While Mr. Hlafter acknowledged that there would be new foot traffic by virtue of there being a new facility, he said that shuttle transportation would be sufficient in handling the problem.

Another concern addressed the potential for hazardous sun glare from the library's stainless steel's exterior. Larry Tighe ensured the Board that the steel used would not have a mirror finish and would be dull enough not to visually impair drivers. Mr. Tighe compared the grade of steel to that used in the Frist Campus Center.

The new science library is, in part, a result of a $60 million donation by Peter Lewis, class of 1955 and a University trustee. The donation was made in late 2001 and the project has been in planning since that time. Mr. Lewis is chairman of the board of the Progressive Corp., one of the country's largest auto insurers. Mr. Lewis also chairs the board of trustees of the Guggenheim Foundation in New York. He crossed paths with Mr. Gehry when the architect worked with the Guggenheim on its design for its museum in Bilbao, Spain, in 1997

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