Photo: Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticut Media
As a drone circled above, a blue plastic cover was lifted off the Mirror House at the corner of Maple Street and South Avenue, a new venue to promote plans for a future New Canaan Library.
Inside the 224-square foot three-sided mirrored building, visitors will learn about plans for the 48,000-square-foot library designed to echo mid-century modern architecture.
“This Mirror House, inspired by our own Glass House and designed in Europe, is going to be our headquarters for sharing the plans and meeting with people to build support, doing education and hopefully a lot of fundraising,” New Canaan Library Executive Director Lisa Oldham said at Tuesday’s ceremony.
The coronavirus pandemic forced changes to the project, reducing the number of people allowed inside at any one time.
“The incredibly clever people who work at the library have devised a way to use technology — augmented reality — so that people can do self-guided tours of the project inside this space,” Oldham said.
Visitors are encouraged to download the library app to cell phones, then by directing their cell phones toward either the poster near the entrance or one of eight posters inside, can watch videos about the vision for the new building.
People can watch explanations delivered by architects, staff, volunteers involved in planning, and Margaret Russell, former editor-in-chief of Architectural Digest.
“I am so excited that this library celebrates the legacy of the Harvard Five and the best of mid-century modernism that flourished in New Canaan,” Russell says in the video.
“I think that the new library plan is so beautiful in that it references modernism of the past, but absolutely navigates everything we need for the present and is incredibility prescient to what we need for the future — a very anticipatory building in terms of its materials and it flexibility,” Russell says.
The Mirror House was designed by OOD, an Estonian design team strongly influenced by Philip Johnson’s Glass House and mid-century modern architects, including the Harvard Five, whose work is also echoed in the new library design, according to a press release distributed by the library.
“The best libraries today, moving forward, reflect that communities that they serve,” Oldham said at the event. “In the past, every one (library) looked the same, they were all built to a pattern no matter what community.”
“This is an exciting day, I have been waiting for this day for a long time,” First Selectman Kevin Moynihan in front of the Mirror House before the unveiling.
He said he is looking forward to ”getting the entire community involved in supporting this project.”
The project has created some controversy since the plans call for destroying the 1913 New Canaan Library, which is the north portion of the present library. Some residents hope to allow the old library to remain on the property next to the new structure.
Plans for the new library include a children’s room three times the size of the current one, an entertainment wing with an auditorium for space for up to 300 and a welcome concourse with a café and art gallery.
The mirrored building is 11 feet by 21 feet and 11 feet high, according to Paul Stone of Karp Associates, who represented the builders in front of the Planning and Zoning Commission. The commission unanimously approved the special permit for the Mirror House on Tuesday, March 31.