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Libraries Shine in Design Spotlight

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

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A new transformation of St. Louis’ historic Cass Gilbert-designed Central Library is among six projects lauded as the U.S.'s “finest examples of library design,” according to the American Institute of Architects.

The others include an inviting new teen center in New York City and a design modeled after an integrated circuit in Phoenix.

The 2013 AIA/ALA Library Building Awards from AIA and the American Library Association honor innovative and striking examples of library design by architects licensed in the U.S, AIA said in its award announcement. The awards are presented every two years.

The winning projects, as described by the firms and AIA, are as follows. More information and photos may be viewed by clicking on the project/firm name.

Central Library Renovation; St. Louis, MO
Cannon Design

The landmark Beaux Arts style building, completed in 1912 and designed by the renowned Cass Gilbert, was in need of a transformative restoration that would increase public access and modernize it for the 21st century.

Central Library exterior

© Timothy Hursley

Cannon Design directed the renovation and restoration effort for Central Library in St. Louis.

The two-year, $55 million, renovation and restoration project directed by Cannon Design also sought to enhance the building’s stature as a cultural treasure, according to the firm.

On the interior, the centrally located Great Hall is surrounded by five wings, four dedicated to public reading rooms, and the fifth—the north wing—to a multi-story book depository closed to the public, according to AIA’s description.

Library Restored

The Great Hall and the four public wings have been restored to their original splendor, the firm said.

But it was the transformation of the north wing that truly “rejuvenated the library,” AIA noted. Old book stacks were removed, and a new “building within a building” was inserted.

Central Library interior
© Timothy Hursley

Interior restoration included cleaning, painting, and replacement of ornamental cast plaster ceiling sections removed in the 1950s.

Additionally, a multistory public atrium provides an accessible and welcoming entry to the library. Further, new “floating platforms” surround the atrium without touching existing interior walls, AIA noted.

The windows of the north wall, now clear glass, bounce natural light deep into the interior and provide striking views, according to the project details.

Interior restoration also included cleaning, painting, and replacement of ornamental cast plaster ceiling sections that had been removed in the 1950s.

The building was further updated with lighting systems, including both contemporary and replica fixtures.

Anacostia Neighborhood Library; Washington, D.C.
The Freelon Group

The small-scale residential context provided the inspiration for the design of this new branch library, located in a low-income, underserved neighborhood in Washington, D.C.

Anacostia exterior
© Mark Herboth Photography

The Anacostia Neighborhood Library in Washington, D.C., achieved LEED Gold certification.

The project not only fulfilled program needs, but also provided a stimulus for community pride and economic development, AIA said.

Designed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification, the project features a series of pavilions for program areas that require enclosure. They include the children’s program room, the young adults’ area, support spaces, and public meeting rooms.

A large green roof structure provides shelter over all the program areas.

The rest of the plan contains high, open space for the main reading room, stacks, computers, and public seating areas, AIA noted.

Anacostia interior
© Mark Herboth Photography

The project features a series of pavilions for program areas including the children's program room.

AIA said the building and site work together as a classroom for sustainable features and education about ecological systems, including a rain garden.

New York Public Library, Hamilton Grange Teen Center; New York City
Rice+Lipka Architects

The center, located on the previously empty third-floor space of Harlem’s Hamilton Grange branch library (designed by McKim, Mead and White) is NYPL’s first full-floor space dedicated to teens.

Hamilton Grange Teen Center
© Michael Moran

The Hamilton Grange Teen Center in New York City was designed to attract neighborhood youth.

In an effort to attract and engage neighborhood youth, the 4,400-square-foot space “challenges the norms of library design,” AIA said. The light-filled floor is split into zones that foster small-group interaction and socialization.

Natural light conditions, color, spatial conditions, and artificial lighting patterns are used architecturally to create the small-scale zones, AIA said.

Hamilton Grange Teen Center
© Michael Moran

The project challenges the norms of library design, according to AIA.

The zones include the X-Bar computer zone, Snack+Chat Niche (a first-time NYPL break from the near-sacred prohibition of eating and drinking), a Study Zone adjacent to the exam prep stacks, and a Highback Lounge, which groups teens together but maintains a sense of individual privacy, according to AIA.

James B. Hunt Jr. Library; Raleigh, NC
Snøhetta and Pearce Brinkley Cease + Lee

An $11 million reduction in the budget for this library during the schematic design phase prompted the design, construction, and client teams to formulate a range of new ideas to maintain functionality and quality, AIA said.

The building needed to be highly programmed and reasonably versatile as well as comfortable and stimulating to visitors.

Hunt Library exterior

© Mark Herboth Photography

The design, construction and client teams faced a $11 million reduction in budget during the schematic design phase of the James B. Hunt Jr. Library in Raleigh, NC.

One innovation was the introduction of an automated book delivery system, which effectively reduced the total area of the building by 200,000 gross square feet and allowed more space for collaboration and technology.

The design celebrates the power of chance encounter and recognizes the role physical space plays in the intellectual stimulation of users, AIA said. Large open spaces connect all floors of the library, and the use of stairs is emphasized to provide an interactive and social environment in between more focused study areas.

Hunt Library interior

© Mark Herboth Photography

The use of stairs is emphasized to provide an interactive and social environment between study areas.

Designed to LEED Silver certification, the building features abundant natural light and expansive views of the nearby lake, the group noted.

The fritted glass and a fixed external aluminum shading system help diminish heat gain and maximize views and ambient natural light. The project also features ceiling-mounted active chilled beams and radiant panels. Rain gardens and green roofs manage storm water onsite, AIA added.

Oak Forest Neighborhood Library; Houston, TX

This 7,600-square-foot modern brick and glass structure opened in 1961. Fifty years later, there was still great nostalgia for the library’s mid-century modern design, but the building no longer met the standards of the Houston Public Library system or the needs of the surrounding neighborhood, according to the AIA.

Oak Forest Exterior
© Luis Ayala

The Oak Forest Neighborhood Library in Houston was updated to meet the needs of the community.

The 2011 renovations and additions respect the character of the existing library and enhance its accessibility and functionality.

The original building’s restored signature green tile mosaic still appears at the parking entry area on the north, but now the neighborhood is welcomed by a tree-shaded second entry and outdoor reading room framed by new adult and teen spaces on the west. The original tile mosaic and globe light canopy of the old circulation desk were restored to create a toddler-sized reading nook.

Oak Forest Interior
© Luis Ayala

The team restored the original building's signature green tile mosaic to create a toddler-sized reading nook.

A new lobby and circulation space occupies the seam between old and new and unites the two entry points, AIA noted.

The project exceeded the city’s sustainability goals and is the second of its buildings to receive LEED Gold certification.

South Mountain Community Library; Phoenix

The building connects the varied uses of a contemporary public library with the needs of a state-of-the-art central campus library, allowing each to function both independently and collaboratively. Modeled after that of an integrated circuit, the design provides insulation between disparate functions and promotes interaction between like functions and spaces, according to AIA’s description.

South Mountain Community Library exterior
© Bill Timmerman, Timmerman Photography Inc.

Phoenix' South Moutain Community Library was designed after an integrated circuit board.

The area was once home to fertile agricultural valleys and citrus groves, so a design focus was to merge interior and exterior spaces to connect to the site’s rich history.

A series of rooftop monitors and light shafts flood natural light into the first-level core.

“The rain screen—formed of bent planks of copper—calls to mind the pattern of an abstracted bar code,” AIA said.

South Mountain Community Library interior
© Mark Boisclair, Mark Boisclair Photography Inc.

Abstract architectural patterns were digitally imprinted on the skylight liners.

Variegated cedar strips reinforce the digital aesthetic of the building. Further, building systems are organized and expressed within an internally lit independent distribution soffit—echoing the design of a circuit board.

Additionally, abstract agricultural patterns are digitally imprinted on the skylight liners and laser-cut guardrails.

The library also houses a 200-seat meeting room, conference and multimedia center, high-tech classrooms, computer center, and a children’s area.


Tagged categories: Aesthetics; American Institute of Architects (AIA); Architecture; Awards and honors; Color + Design; Design; Government contracts; Renovation; Restoration

Comment from Catherine Brooks, (6/7/2013, 10:50 AM)

What beautiful demonstrations of ways to entice folks to continue reading PRINTED books. For visual-and-tactile learning kids, paper books stimulate so much more of their imaginations than e-books

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