ARCHITECTURE | Exploring Don Hisaka

Hikasa_leadThe Owen D. Young Library at St. Lawrence University. The main wing, designed by Don Hisaka, was completed in 1980.

More than 30 years after it opened, the Owen D. Young Library at St. Lawrence University continues to be a polarizing building. Set amid a campus that developed in two bursts — the first between 1856 and 1915 and the second between 1925 and 1930 — the international-style, cement behemoth seems incongruous to many. Indeed, its brutalist exterior is a stark contrast to its gothic and neocolonial neighbors.

Once inside, though, one can realize that architect Don Hisaka wanted the library to complement its neighbors. Windows on the second floor frame terrific views of Richardson Hall, Gunnison Chapel and other older campus buildings. Hisaka also intended the building to stimulate — its original furnishings included a spectrum of primary colors. In the 1999-2000 renovation, those were replaced with more muted and earthy tones. Among the library’s other features are a massive indoor garden and raised study carrels known as treehouses.

While ODY can be interpreted to be severe and uninviting, Hisaka’s houses are charming. Based in Cleveland in the 1960s and 1970s and later in Massachusetts and California, Hisaka’s work pays heavy tribute to the international style. Again, though, I find his domestic work very approachable. Check out this house, built as a summer residence in Peninsula, Ohio, in 1965:

Hisaka-Gund-Ext-Trees

And this is the courtyard of Hisaka’s Shaker Heights home, built in the late 1960s:
Hisaka-Hisaka-Courtyard

More Hisaka here.

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