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Keene State Architecture Major Connor Bell Builds Model for Library Addition

Connor Bell (l) and George Scott with their model of the proposed addition to...
Connor Bell (l) and George Scott with their model of the proposed addition to the Keene Public Library and the Annex (Heberton Hall)

When the Keene Public Library decided that it could overcome its space limitations, create room to integrate new technologies, and offer more resources and opportunities to the community by building a connection to and renovating the Library Annex (the former Heberton Hall), it realized it had a problem. How would it get potential supporters excited about the $5 million project? How would it make them understand just what it had in mind? Computer drawings and printed flyers just wouldn’t have the impact the Library knew it needed.

Library trustee and retired mechanical engineer George Scott knew it would take a 3-D scale model to make the kind of impression that would encourage the local community to get behind the project. “I have had experience in fund raising and know the value of a model of the proposed building to focus potential donors on what they will be getting with their donation,” Scott said.

Scott had experience building models, but those were made from plywood and nails – very impractical materials for the detailed model he envisioned. So he approached Keene State Professor of Architecture Donna Paley and asked her to recommend a student who could work with him to create a scale model that captured the architect’s (Tappé Architects of Boston) design as accurately as possible. Prof. Paley introduced him to Connor Bell, a third-year architecture student from Northwood, New Hampshire, and Scott hired him to help.

“Connor taught me how to build with paste board and 3/16” foam core, materials familiar to architects,” Scott said. “He knew about glues and how to join walls at corners.”

Bell, a full-time student passionate about gaining architecture experience and earning funding for his education, found it a real challenge to put the long hours into the project, but somehow he made it work, thereby earning Scott’s respect for his diligence, craftsmanship, problem-solving skills, and uncanny time management.

A photo of the model doesn't do it justice. Stop by the Keene Public Library and see the real thing.
A photo of the model doesn't do it justice. Stop by the Keene Public Library and see the real thing.

The duo began working on the model last May, finishing it in early October, just in time for the public phase of the fundraising campaign. The reproduction offers amazing detail: brick exterior, windows with panes, interior stairways, and interior floors that can be removed to show the rooms below. Stop by the library to see this masterful work of art.

“I learned a lot more than someone might think,” Bell recalled. “I was given the plans of the design right off the bat, and I was able to decipher what materials, dimensions, and textures we would need. Architectural models are becoming an endangered species in firms these days, probably because of their inconvenience to build. However, I’m an advocate for using models in both the design process and the presentation, because having the physical object that in front of you can convey a sense of design that a digital model or two-dimensional plan really can’t.”

And it’s about more than just the architecture. Bell, a stellar reflection of Keene State’s motto of “Wisdom to make a difference,” is also involved in designing, and eventually building, a pre-primary school for a village in Uganda. “During the many hours I spent in the studio working on this model, I had the same feelings as I did in Uganda,” he said. “There is need all around us, and if I can contribute just a small portion of my skills to be able to make a difference, then that is enough for me.”