ADDITION TO THE LONGY SCHOOL OF MUSIC, CAMBRIDGE, MA 1965-1970

Those of us who work on higher education campuses know that it is very rare for a 1960’s-era building to actually enrich a campus and to live comfortably with historic structures around it. During this time frame, when the Longy Concert Hall and Library was designed as an addition to the existing Richardsonian mansion, most architects were much less responsive to historical fabric than we are today. The sensitivity with which architects Rem Huygens and Anthony Tappe’ scaled, massed and clad the new addition was rewarded with a prestigious Progressive Architecture Award. The jurors noted the following:

“This kind of modest attitude toward architecture is sorely missing today, when everyone is trying to set the world on fire – even with the smallest kind of project.”

“The architect has done a small remodeling job in which he has had a responsibility to the old building, the street and the general site – and he has made a sympathetic and sensitive addition.”

“He did some nice things in a very simple way: the walls, the steps, and the details of the building harmonize with the older structure.”

The mansion, with its ruddy complexion of granite and brownstone bands stands proudly beside its younger sibling, the concert hall addition, with a smooth skin of medium iron spot brick and the same brownstone bands that tie the whole composition together in a comfortable family resemblance. Many details were borrowed from the existing building, such as the slightly rounded corners of the garden wall, the wall cap profile, the canted stone caps of the chimneys, and the heavy paneled oak doors.

The entry is recessed in between the house and cubic mass of the concert hall, which is carefully scaled in height and width to relate to the volume of the historic building. The windows appear as deeply recessed voids, including a floor to ceiling window that mediates between the stage and the audience.

Site / Floor Plan

The two major program elements—recital hall and library—were combined into one space, since the students would use the library mostly during the day while concerts would take place mainly in the evenings. Consultants Bolt Baranek and Newman, who had also worked on the United Nations Assembly Hall, Lincoln Center, and the shed at Tanglewood, developed the acoustical design of the hall. The books on the library shelves lining most of the walls serve as a critical acoustical material and contribute to the academic character of the hall.

The space is high and bright; the walls of birch paneling and brick are warm and rich. The asymmetrical placement of the separated wall masses, the L-shaped balcony, and the deep skylight wells create a relaxed spatial quality that is quite distinct from that of a conventional concert hall.

The building is intimately connected with the functioning of the school. The interesting programmatic and physical associations lend an intangible richness to the project. The connection between the music written (library) and the music heard (recital hall) is expressed in the dual programming of the space. And the students learning in the old building and performing in the new create a synergy also expressed in the two very distinct structures that are designed to “make beautiful music together.”

LONGY  TODAY

In 1989, Longy approached Huygens DiMella Shaffer because the original strategy of combining the Library and recital hall caused programming conflicts. In response, Rem Huygens designed the Bakalar Music Library addition and renovations, completed in 1992.  As a result of removing the books and changing technologies, the acoustics continue to be tuned as needs and technology changes. LED stage lighting was discreetly added between the acoustic clouds above the stage last year. In 2010, another firm was hired to expand the lobby and create a new entrance pavilion to handle the crowds that enjoy the 250+ concerts that Pickman Hall hosts each year. Evren Celimli, the current Facilities Manager noted in our follow up meeting that the hall continues to get rave reviews as an intimate place to experience chamber music, allowing the musicians and the audience to connect during and after the show.

The Longy School of Music today