The Newark Public Library' Opens Philip Roth Room

Engagement and innovation in a historic re-think

August 17, 2021 - by commARCH
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The Newark Public Library' Opens Philip Roth Room

Michael Moran, C&G Partners

Newark, New Jersey.

Client: Newark Public Library
Architects: Thomas M. Hotaling AIA, Ann M. Beha Faia, David Elzer AIA,
Ric Panciera AIA
Exhibit Design: C&G Partners
Construction Manager:
Shawmut Design And Construction
Mep / FP Engineer: Legacy Engineers
Structural Engineer: Silman
Exhibit Case & Shelving Fabrication: Hadley Exhibits Inc.
Lighting: Lightcraft

Image Credits: Michael Moran, C&G Partners
What was the goal?
In 2016, Roth announced the bequeathal of his personal collection of 7,000 books to the library. After his death in 2018, the library received not only his books, but furniture and other personal items as well. ABA was retained to design the new center as both a destination for researchers consulting Roth’s works and an exhibition space for sharing material related to the author’s work and life.

“An early visit to Roth’s Connecticut home, an early American farmhouse, allowed us to experience its restored rooms and contemporary furnishings just as he left them,” notes ABA Principal Thomas Hotaling. “The time we spent there made clear his appreciation for craft and his ability to beautifully balance heritage with modernism. We wanted to bring a corresponding balance to this renovation, respectfully restoring the space as Roth himself might have known it in his youth. It serves as a setting for a contemporary presentation of his work and life, highlighting his deep connection to Newark, the library, and design itself.”

What was done?
Partnering with Shawmut Design & Construction, ABA upgraded this double- height room with all new mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection systems, as well as new climate control and LED lighting systems, to create a museum- quality research and exhibition space. Period details in the c. 1898 building — such as plaster molding, pilasters, wainscoting, and double doors — were repaired and restored, and new oak flooring was installed to return the room to its original luster.

Image Credits: Michael Moran, C&G Partners


A broad range of design options, critiqued with library staff and exhibit designers C&G Partners, designers of the bold and vibrant Philip Roth Inaugural Exhibition, led to the final spatial organization of the center, with a flexible exhibition area at one end and a studio-like reading room at the other.

What was the result?
“Roth left us his books, memorabilia that mattered to him, and endowments to support programs, outreach and the library’s broader needs,” says Joslyn Bowling Dixon, Director of the Newark Public Library. “This beautiful space, thoughtfully designed by Ann Beha Architects and the entire team, encourages exploration and fresh thinking. Programming developed specifically for the Philip Roth Personal Library will examine different perspectives, challenge norms and provide insights into how literature often reflects or predicts current realities, much as Roth did through his novels.”

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