Vassar College, Van Ingen Art Library


Vassar College, Van Ingen Art Library

"... the strength and coherence of the restored design is apparent to everyone who steps into (the library). This appeal is evident in the surge in the numbers of students working in the library since we reopened, who use it not merely as a comfortable place to study but as a meeting place. "

- Thomas Hill, Art Librarian, Vassar College

PBDW conducted a major renovation of Vassar College’s Van Ingen Art Library, an innovative work of late 1930’s architecture, designed specifically to support a particularly important part of Vassar’s curriculum. The library had fallen into disuse on account of the dreariness of the unmaintained finishes, a changed pedagogy and lack of technological infrastructure. A key decision was made early on by the faculty, library staff, and PBDW to re-establish the original Modernist character of Van Ingen’s spaces, turning back the clock on seventy-five years of wear and random alterations, while simultaneously upgrading the library to create a setting that would be relevant and inviting to a contemporary student body. To meet this challenge, the re-design of the library entailed a comprehensive study of its historic elements. A detailed laboratory analysis was carried out to determine the original finishes. The color palette included thirteen different paint colors, with the main reading room and each of its four flanking study rooms painted with its own distinct and coordinated color scheme. New lighting throughout and new finishes were selected to recreate the spirit of the original design. The circulation desk and short flight of stairs to the stack levels below were placed to optimize circulation. Study rooms were reconfigured and modernized to attract student users. An informal seating area and custom museum-quality display case in the main reading room were additions designed to encourage diverse uses. The entire library was technologically upgraded to support an increasingly computerized fine arts curriculum.


Vassar College


Poughkeepsie, NY

Date Completed


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