The Center had occupied a succession of spaces since its founding in 1980, including a factory loft, a red-brick schoolhouse, a spice warehouse, a roller rink, a nineteenth-century silk mill, and a defunct shopping mall. In 1991 the organization received word that it would have to vacate the borrowed schoolhouse that served as its headquarters.
Lansky worked with board chair Myra Fein to secure a ten-acre site in a former apple orchard on the edge of Hampshire College’s campus in Amherst, Massachusetts.Moore says '[The architecture] It needed to recall the shtetl [the iconic Jewish town of Eastern Europe]'. With classrooms, exhibit space, a small theater, a reading library, a bookstore, offices, and a central book repository, the building is bright, airy, and forward-looking—a singular style that Lansky describes as “heymish modern.”
Larry Kaplen arranged a leadership gift of $2 million from the Kaplen Foundation, and the planned addition was designated the Kaplen Family Building. . Tucked behind the original building, the new structure would be barely visible from the street but it would appear bigger inside than out. Its 22,000 square feet include the 350-seat Kligerman-Greenspun Performance Hall, the Klarman Student Center, and the Brechner Gallery. Also the Lief D. Rosenblatt Library—a state-of-the-art, fireproof facility that would provide long-term, climate-controlled storage for the Center’s core book collection.