Princeton to get $60 million library designed by Gehry

Yale already has a Frank O. Gehry designed building, but Princeton’s Gehry will probably have the twist.

Princeton University trustees announced this week a $60 million donation from Peter B. Lewis, a Princeton trustee and alumnus from the Class of 1955, that will enable Princeton to construct a science library designed by Gehry.

Gehry, who designed the psychiatric center at Yale-New Haven Hospital, is slated to come to Yale as the Louis I. Kahn Visiting Professor of Architectural Design this spring.

Yale art history professor and architecture expect Vincent Scully said Gehry, most famous for his design of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, designs with a computer program that allows him to make flowing shapes and unexpected and billowing twists.

“Gehry did the psychiatric center in the hospital, but that is not a typical Gehry building because there wasn’t enough money to twist,” Scully said. “[Gehry] said you have to pay to have the twist.”

Scully said that Princeton — with $60 million — should be able to get the twist.

The donation makes Lewis the most generous donor in Princeton’s history, bringing his lifetime donations to $105 million.

“This is a very significant project for Princeton in two respects,” said Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman in a written statement. “It allows us to create library space for the sciences that is designed to meet the needs of the 21st century, and it allows us to bring to our campus the work of one of the most original and distinctive architects of our time.”

Yale President Richard Levin said that while Princeton did not undertake a project as extensive as Yale’s Science Hill initiative, Princeton has over time made many investment in its science facilities.

Lewis is the chief executive officer of Progressive Insurance, one of the nation’s largest auto insurers. He ranks No. 236 on Forbes’ 2001 list of the 400 wealthiest Americans.

Lewis endowed the construction of an Gehry-designed building at Case Western Reserve University. He had worked with Gehry as chairman of the board of trustees for the Guggenheim Foundation in New York.

Gehry was awarded an honorary doctor of fine arts by the University in 2000. He was an endowed visiting professor in 1999 and the Bishop Professor of Architectural Design in 1979. Gehry previously was named the Davenport Professor in 1982, 1985 and 1989.

–Elise Jordan

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