Part of an occasional series of posts by Cool Spaces! creator and host Stephen Chung.
August is an especially sleepy time in New England and often entails very little work activity. With such short summers in this region, people tend to take off as much time as possible. I frequently do the same, and this year I decided to take a week and head north with my family to visit Maine and the Acadia National Park area. The basic idea was to get away from civilization for a bit and enjoy Maine’s rocky coast. I certainly wasn’t expecting to see any “cool spaces” on this trip — not any cool man-made spaces, at any rate.
Along the way, we took a detour to grab a quick bite in Waterville, a small town with seemingly little to see. I happened to spot a sign for Colby College and decided to explore. I knew that Colby was considered a very good liberal arts college, but didn’t know anything beyond that. I figured it was worth a quick visit. You never know what you might find.
And what did I discover? A jewel of a building: the Colby College Museum of Art. Most of the school’s buildings are rendered in traditional red brick and organized around quadrangles. It’s quite a nice campus, actually. So what a surprise it was to find this glass building dropped into the heart of the campus. And you know what? It fits in beautifully. The glass structure is actually an addition to an existing art museum — and connecting with the older building was the real challenge for the designer. How do you make a complementary, yet modern, addition to an older structure?
The architect, Fred Fisher, decided to create an entry court: a proper arrival space that is now filled with Richard Serra sculptures; a space to let the old and the new “breathe” and maintain their own identity. Fisher stitched these two spaces together with a brick colonnade. Actually, I was surprised to learn that the architect was Fred Fisher, a very strong designer based in Los Angeles. Maybe it’s just a personal bias, but I tend to think the best designers of additions to older buildings come from the East and the Midwest. But I think Fisher did a really nice job here. One of the best moments came when I was trying to take some exterior pics of the building and noticed that a neighboring traditional brick building was perfectly reflected in its glass surface. It was a neat trick! I always love it when a building is multifacted like this: by day, looking like its neighbors (depending on where you stand); at night, completely opening up and showcasing the art inside.
You never know when you might come upon a “cool space,” but it’s especially fun to discover one during an unplanned visit. If you ever find yourself in Waterville, I highly recommend checking out the museum. A great discovery!