Williams College Learning Commons

Client: Williams College 
Architect: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Architects


While the project was still in schematic development, Milder Office had the opportunity to work with Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Architects on the interior design of a new central library building at Williams College, a renowned liberal arts college in Williamstown, Massachusetts. 

At the time, the idea of the library as a Learning Commons was gaining traction and we challenges the Williams community (as well as the architects) to re-imagine the preciousness of the library and to create a range of unique spaces for students to interact with. At the time, many students were opting to study in local cafes that had fewer restrictions and offered more casual social interactions (without being shooshed).


Working with students, faculty, library staff and administrators we created four test sites to prototype and publicly test concepts for new learning environments. Each test site included information on the concept and an invitation for comment.

creating better outcomes by engaging stakeholders

This was not only an opportunity for the planning team to anticipate what will become the new library later on, but to also to involve the larger community at the college in the discussions and decision making about the new building interior.

Working with the Williams community over the course of two semesters, we collected data and feedback from all stakeholders through surveys, interviews, as well as public forums and presentations. For Phase Two,  the sites were modified in response to the data collected, so to further investigate and further refine how these different approaches to learning benefited the college’s community.

Several years later the project was finally completed and we were pleased to see that some of the insights and learning from the our Test Sites were integrated into the final design of the building.

floor lounging

tatami platform carrels