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A Tale of Two Libraries

What does it take to create not one, but two groundbreaking libraries – just miles away from each other but uniquely different in their designs and methods of meeting the needs of their respective communities?

Tappé and BCWH architects have done just that in Henrico County, Virginia. Explore the Libbie Mill Library and the 2017 AIA/ALA Library Award winning Varina Area Library in this brand-new video.


Libbie Mill & Varina Public Libraries | Tappé Architects & BCWH Architects from Chibi Moku on Vimeo.


Libraries Look to the Future: Jeff Hoover on NHPR

We look at how digital technology is challenging public libraries to redefine their role in the 21st century. While many still enjoy borrowing books, libraries are using social media and digital technology to expand their programs and establish themselves as vibrant community spaces.  In rural New Hampshire, they also provide vital access to technology for residents.



The Varina Library in Henrico County, Virginia receives a national design award from the American Institute of Architects and American Library Association.


The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and American Library Association (ALA) announced the winners of the 2017 Library Building Awards.

Since 1995, the AIA and the American Library Association/Library Leadership and Management Association have recognized excellence in library planning and design. The Varina Library was one of eight American and European libraries to receive this year’s prestigious Library Building Award.

The Library, which opened on June 1, 2016, is a new 43,000 square foot building located on a 22 acre parcel of land in the rural, eastern section of Henrico County, Virginia. The new state-of the art-library replaces a small 6,000 square foot branch that served the Varina community for over 40 years.

The design of the Library reflects and reinforces the unique, local culture and history of the Varina district. The building and materials are reminiscent of the agrarian structures that once populated the area, borrowing on the form of a tobacco barn. The Library is configured to be a series of three pavilions emerging from and cascading down the site toward a protected wetland area. Both the interior and exterior materials are inspired by those found recurrently in the surrounding community. The end of each pavilion is enclosed by expansive glass walls that maximizes views, allowing natural light to bathe the interior. The project is designed to achieve LEED Silver Certification.

Configured for adaptability, the spatial connections between the Teen Collection, Collaboration Zone and Digital Media Lab allow the spaces to flex over the course of a day to accommodate emerging entrepreneurs, seniors, teens and tech-savvy patrons. At the opposite end of the Library, the Silent Study pavilion is immersed in daylight and the natural environment surrounds patrons who desire a place for focused concentration. The Children’s Collection has a “floating” story and craft pavilion that is accented with pops of color in which children can access through a great “barn door.” Spilling from the Welcome Zone to the Reading Landing, cascading seating steps become an informal amphitheater when the oversized screen lowers in front of the two-story glass wall that frames the woods and walking trails.

The Varina Area Library was designed by BCWH in Richmond, VA in collaboration with Tappé Architects in Boston, MA.

Varina Library

About BCWH and Tappé Architects

BCWH and Tappé have a strategic partnership to bring the best in library design to the communities they serve. Both firms share the same values and philosophies about client service and design excellence. BCWH’s strong project delivery approach and superior interior design capabilities are complimented by Tappé’s national expertise in planning and designing quality library environments. The two firms have successfully collaborated in Henrico County since 2008. In addition to the Varina Library, the team designed the Gayton Library renovation and the new Libbie Mill Library and are currently designing the County’s new Fairfield Area Library.


If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Gerhard Mullican at 617-986-4864 / (Boston, MA). 




Principal Chris Blessen awarded AIA CAE Emerging Professional Scholarship

Principal Chris Blessen, has been awarded an AIA Committee on Architecture for Education Scholarship to attend the CAE Conference in Portland, Oregon. The conference will equip him to continue to advance the design of educational facilities in Massachusetts. Chris will be blogging on the AIA website. His first entry can be read here.

The Boston Business Journal has also recognized the achievement.

The CAE Spring Conference : Place + Pedagogy, will be held May 17-20 in Portland, Oregon.


Tuskegee Airmen christen Melrose High School Learning Commons at first public event in new space.

The newly renovated Learning Commons in the Melrose Middle/High School was the scene for a standing room only presentation by the Tuskegee Airmen on November 7,  the eve of Election Day.

Melrose Mayor Robert Dolan praised the new Library space, claiming that the level of excellence is “almost unseen in any high school in Massachusetts.” The cutting edge educational facility for teenage students was a perfect backdrop for the impassioned message of Dr. Harold May, 90-year-old Tuskegee Airman, Harvard Graduate, Doctor and Missionary.

“I was 15 years old 75 years ago” Dr. May said, regarding the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Dr. May explained that tough choices had to be made then – and still do today. He encouraged those who are currently 15, 16, 17 & 18 years old to imagine what it will be like looking back at this time 75 years from now. Will you regret your choices, or look back fondly on the change you made?

Dr. May encouraged the crowd to think about how the Tuskegee airmen and the military integration of races was a stepping stone to the Civil Rights movement. He said that today we are still a divided country – but on ideological and social differences. “Looking back 75 years from this day, is there any way for society to be integrated?”

The words were poignant and timely. The large crowd hung on to every slowly spoken word that Dr. May spoke. “We come from different religions, but we have one thing in common – we are all Americans. We are members of the human family.”

Through education and common experiences, perhaps performed in learning commons like the one at Melrose High School and all across the country, the perpetuation of integration that the Tuskegee airmen strove for can continue:

“Remember this always: Act as though we are all members of one family – because we are.”


Lunenburg HS Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

On Saturday, October 22, the new Lunenburg Middle/High School was dedicated. U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, Superintendent of Schools Loxi Jo Calmes and Board of Selectmen Chairman Jamie Toale were present to offer words before the homecoming parade and football game.

Tappé Architects designed the 167,000 SQFT space to include STEM and collaborative programs including a Horticultural program supported by a greenhouse. Project Manager Jennifer Littlefield participated in the ribbon cutting ceremony.

More photos of the Ceremony can be seen here


Athol Public Library – Virtual Walk through

A new virtual walk through of the Athol Public Library has been uploaded. Click to view


Edgartown Public Library Grand Opening Celebration

~ Please save the date ~

Edgartown Public Library Grand Opening Celebration

Saturday, June 25th, 12pm – 2pm

Hosted by the Edgartown Library Board of Trustees


Varina Area Library Opening Ceremony June 1 at 6pm

Tappe Architects is excited to announce that the Varina Are Library will be opening soon. The 43,000 square foot library is one of 3 recent projects our team has undertaken for Henrico County. This will be their most rural/agrarian location, located on a 26-acre site. Together with a teaching kitchen, the design includes innovative library services including Information Commons, Digital Media Lab, Analog to Digital Media Capture Studio, and a Collaboration Zone.
Tappe teamed with the award-winning Richmond, Virginia based architectural firm, BCWH Architects on this project. Working collaboratively, we deliver exemplar planning and design services for many library projects throughout Virginia.
See additional information from Henrico County Public Library here.

Matthew Barnhart is Promoted to Associate

Tappe Architects is pleased to announce that Matthew Barnhart was been promoted to Associate effective April 1st 2016.

Matt has been a valuable part of the Tappe Architects team for over ten years and has worked on many of the firm’s significant projects. He has extensive experience in the production of contract documents and has acted as the project manager for a number of commissions including most recently the Stoneham Middle School. Matt will continue to work on managing the design, production and construction administration of schools and libraries. The firm is delighted to welcome Matt to a senior role and looks forward to his ongoing contribution in the continuing success of Tappe Architects.


Christopher Blessen is Promoted to Principal

Tappe Architects is delighted to announce that Chris Blessen was been promoted to Principal effective January 1, 2016.

Chris has been a project manager on some of the firms largest and most complex projects. He has extensive experience in programming and design for both schools and libraries and a sophisticated understanding of the technical and logistical challenges posed by many public construction projects. Chris will continue his already active role in firm marketing and management as a principal and firm owner. The current owners are thrilled to have Chris join the firm’s senior management team and looks forward to his role in the ongoing success of Tappe Architects.

Tappe Architects has been selected for the Clyde Brown Elementary School in Millis

Tappe Architects has been selected by the Town of Millis and the MSBA Designer Selection Panel to complete the feasibility study and schematic design phases for the Clyde Brown Elementary School in Millis. The current school is on a campus with the Middle/High School and town recreational fields. Currently the school contains students from grades PK – 4. The feasibility study will study options for renovating or replacing the building along with the potential of relocating fifth grade from its current location in the Middle School back to the Clyde Brown which would result in a PK – grade 5 facility. It is anticipated that these early phases of design will be complete before the end of 2016.

Maynard High School – CHPS Verified Leader

Maynard High School – one of only a few CHPS Verified Leader in Massachusetts – was selected as a case study and the venue for the NE-CHPS version 3.1 Training Conference.*
Cesar Dedios AIA LEED AP and Jennifer M. Littlefield, AIA, LEED AP BD+C led the tour of this facility and provided an in-depth view to the attendees of its many sustainable and high performance features. This event was geared towards assisting facility managers, school administrators, utility program administrators , architects, engineers and others in the implementation process for designing high performance schools using the NE CHPS as an option for the Massachusetts School Building Authority ( MSBA) Sustainable Design Guidelines.
* Event sponsored by Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership (NEEP), Massachusetts Facilities Administrators Association ( MFAA) and Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS).


Tappé to design renovation and expansion of the Alexander Mack Library in Bridgewater.

Intended to become the new center of academic life for Bridgewater College in Bridgewater Library, Tappe Architects Inc. is working on conceptual designs to comprehensively renovate and expand the Alexander Mack Library.  Tappe is collaborating with BCWH Architects from Richmond, VA.