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Architectural flare

Architectural flare
New classical centerpiece rises on Rhodes College campus
By David Yawn

Rhodes College in Memphis is erecting a new library to serve the needs of the college well into the 21st Century - all within a classical architectural framework.

The 136,000-sq.-ft. Paul Barret Library, to be completed next spring, is no ordinary block building but one that reflects the collegiate Gothic character of the rest of the campus. The Paul Barret Jr. Trust chiefly funds the $40 million state-of-the-art facility.
"With respect to scope, contract value and square footage, the Paul Barret Library is the largest project ever undertaken by Rhodes College," said Justin Grinder, project manager with general contractor Grinder, Taber & Grinder Inc.. "This library will revamp the functionality of the college by becoming the heart of the campus with its central location and amenities."
The new facility, which on the outside looks like a European university or church building, includes internal modern features such as:

• Hundreds of carrels wired for laptops
• 24-hour study space and group study rooms
• Vastly improved facilities for the regular collection, archives and rare books
• Peer tutoring space
• Computer laboratories
• Teaching/learning technology laboratory
• A media center
• Faculty offices
• A cafe

The Barret Library project, which broke ground in December 2002, is the product of a collaborative architectural team. The firm of Hanbury Evans Wright and Vlattas of Norfolk, Va., serves as primary architect, and Shepley Bulfinch Richardson & Abbott of Boston, experts in library planning, is responsible for programming and conceptual design.

Some of the five-story building's chief architectural elements include an apse, cloister, interior balcony, stained glass, slate and copper roofing, rubble stone and limestone veneer, and two bell towers. The major tower rises 120 ft. and the minor tower rises 65 ft.

The gothic arches with limestone and natural stone add aesthetic value to the library, said Fred Grinder, vice president at GTG, senior project manager and father of Justin Grinder. The gothic limestone arches are quite intricate with multiple profiles that must be carved on a radius.

"The installer must ensure that these radiused profiles are maintained within a small tolerance to avoid conflicting with adjacent materials," Grinder said. The limestone window surrounds have only a 1/8-inch tolerance because the window frames were released for fabrication prior to installation of the limestone.

"The rubble stone installation is very labor intensive since the masons must shape each piece of rubble stone with a hammer or chisel to fit each situation and maintain the general random color variance and texture typical of Rhodes College's stone-veneered buildings," he added.

The concrete and steel structure is massive due to seismic standards, the loads of the stone and the weight of the books. Inside the building, moldings display elaborate millwork, and railings show intricate ornamental features. Trim features are in keeping with the elaborate molding.
The library will have state-of-the-art mobile shelving units to maximize space and a complex, modern system for telecommunications and HVAC controls.
The apse, a primary focal point, features a copper dome on the outside and a balcony within and helps give the building a European cathedral look. Slate and granite pavers provide the cloister - a series of arches along the exterior of the building - with an old-world look.

"This level of construction materials is similar to the classic buildings of Europe," Fred Grinder said. An array of carved stone shield will pose in high relief above the main entranceway.

The work also necessitated installation of a new underground stormwater system and telecommunications conduit, as well as the relocation of electrical high-voltage lines. A new parking lot was built to replace the parking spaces lost with the Barret project.
To enhance the look of the campus interior, Rhodes is removing a driveway and parking just north of Briggs Hall and converting the area into a pedestrian-friendly grassy quadrangle. Also as part of the Barret project, Tuthill Hall and Austin Hall were razed.

"Barret Library a unique building and provides a rare opportunity to use the quality of materials and craftsmanship that we have here," said Richard Rusinak, project manager with Evans Wright and Vlattas. "This follows the Rhodes tradition."
"We have been very team-oriented from the beginning with architects, engineers and the contractor," said Brian Foshee, director of the physical plant at Rhodes. "We're on schedule and on budget on a very complex library project due to the good team that has been put together."