San Diego’s New Central Library, which opened earlier this fall, was a long time coming. The project has been in the works since at least 1971, when the first of 46 studies on the subject of a new library building was published. Rob Wellington Quigley, FAIA, who designed the $184.9 million structure with Tucker Sadler & Associates, came on board in 1995. Why did he stick with it so long, through budget problems and four site changes? “It’s in my backyard,” Quigley said. “It was just too important a project, culturally, to the city, and to all of us...though it was very difficult, economically, to withstand all the stops and starts.” The centerpiece of the New Central Library is its steel-mesh dome, which, Quigley explained, is actually a composite of eight three-point arches. “It’s all about buoyancy,” Quigley said. “It feels like it’s lifting off the building, as opposed to a traditional dome, which is weighing the building down. It’s sort of the anti-dome, really.” The dome’s steel-mesh sails serve both practical and symbolic ends. On a pragmatic level, the latticework protects the library’s collections from sun damage while allowing some natural light to filter through, mimicking the experience of reading under a shade tree. At the same time, the dome is a metaphor for self-improvement. “Visually the dome is not complete. It’s clearly in the act of becoming a dome, becoming something,” Quigley said. Quigley’s vision for the library remained remarkably consistent throughout its long gestation. The architect credits the residents of San Diego, who articulated their priorities in a series of public workshops. At the top of the list was their desire for an iconic building—hence the dome. The workshop attendees also asked for a formal reading room, in addition to the series of intimate work spaces favored by contemporary library programmers. “What the community understood is that reading rooms aren’t just about library science, they’re about community,” Quigley said. “The library is kind of the last bastion of equality: everyone’s equal, everyone can come, no ticket required.” The reading room and the library’s other public spaces—including a topiary sculpture court, auditorium, meeting room, and art gallery—are clustered at the top of the building. Typically, Quigley said, public areas are relegated to a library’s lowest floors, to facilitate access. But at the design workshops the architect organized, residents pointed out that rooftop views are usually restricted to those who can afford a penthouse apartment. “If an architect had suggested it, they probably would have revoked our license,” Quigley quipped. But the New Central Library wasn’t just the work of an architect. It was a product of decades of public debate and reflection, according to Quigley. “In my mind a building that does not function emotionally is not utilitarian. This is what we needed, permission from the grassroots,” he said.
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Out of a crop of 26, ten teams have been invited to present their technical proposals for the renovation of the Mies van der Rohe–designed Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C. District officials are hoping to transform the landmark 1972 building, Mies’ last built work and his only in D.C., into a state-of-the-art central library fit for the nation’s capital. The finalists are Cunningham Quil Architects and 1100 Architects, Ennead Architects and Marshall Moya Architects, Leo A. Daly and Richard Bauer, Martinez and Johnson Architects and Mecanoo Architects, OMA and Quinn Evans Architects, Patkua Architects and Ayer Saint Gross, REX and Davis Carter Scott Architects, Shalom Baranes and Davis Brody Bond, Skidmorw Owings & Merill, and Studios Architecture and The Freelon Group. With the library’s plumbing, HVAC and elevator systems in need of replacement, asbestos present throughout the building, and annual maintenance costs soaring to $5 million, the aging athenaeum demands some serious work. Library officials have given their chosen architects a few different options, from a simple update of the building’s ailing systems, to construction of two additional floors or a complete gutting the interior. Either way, the transformation is scheduled to wrap up by 2018.
Dutch firm Mecanoo’s latest civic building represents a new era in library design. The new Library of Birmingham in the UK replaces the former James Hardin–designed central library, a brutalist concrete structure. The new library is a sleek expression of the evolving nature of education and learning in the 21st century. The modern, metal-clad structure houses a variety of services, including a multimedia center, two cafés, a music library, a performance space, green outdoor terraces, a shop and a gallery. The design vision is that the space will offer culture and entertainment, as well as learning and information. The library’s director, Brian Gambles, told the Guardian that libraries must be relevant to the community, and that the way people learn and use libraries, is changing. The building comprises of a stack of four rectangular volumes for a total of 10 stories and penetrated by a central void. Each rectangular volume is staggered to create various canopies and landscaped terraces. The expansive, open-plan floors are connected with weaving flights of escalators, which ascend from the library terraces, up through floating rings of bookshelves, to the light-flooded atrium above. A series of overlapping metal hoops of the facade create striking patterns of light and shade within the interior of the building. Francine Houben, founder and director of Mecanoo told the Guardian, "the interior is designed to create surprises and stimulate the senses." All photos by Christian Richters.
In the first-ever design/build process for a Chicago neighborhood library branch, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill joins Wight & Company construction to replace Chinatown’s aging and heavily trafficked library at 2100 South Wentworth Avenue. It’s part of a $66 million “investment to build expand and modernize our library system,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. The new facility replaces the existing branch located in a leased building at 2353 S. Wentworth Ave. That branch is one of the busiest in the city, averaging about 21,000 visitors per month in 2012. SOM’s design appears to be a two-story oval, shaded from all but head-on angles by wood fins perpendicular to its glass façade. Slated to open in 2015, the new library branch is a long time coming. TIF funds will finance some of the development, which is currently in the land acquisition phase.
New York Public Library (NYPL) president Anthony Marx has commissioned a third-party review of the projected $300 million cost to implement Norman Foster’s redesign of its central branch. To pay for this costly renovation, dubbed The Central Library Plan, the library will use $150 million allocated by the city for this specific project and raise an additional $200 million from the sale of the Mid-Manhattan and the Science, Industry, and Business Libraries. NYPL says consolidation will save it $7.5 million a year. Critics of the plan advocate preserving the central branch’s stacks and renovating the Mid-Manhattan Library instead. Marx said to the New York Times, “we know there is skepticism about our numbers. We understand that there needs to be an independent cost estimate and will provide one as soon as we have a design.” Marx also mentioned that both the estimated cost and Foster’s design are subject to change. More specifics will be released in the fall, but for now Foster’s design would swap the stacks for a circulating library overlooking Bryant Park that features a four-level atrium with bookshelves, sitting areas and desks. Critics argue against removing the stacks and are skeptical of the financial estimates NYPL president Marx has put forward. State Assemblyman Micah Z. Kellner, chairman of the Committee on Libraries and Education Technology, questions why the NYPL has applied for and been granted building permits without a detailed design and specific cost. Construction has been announced to start this summer and to be completed by 2018.
As cities across the country struggle to bring new life to aging athenaeums and cash-strapped local libraries, the AIA has honored six outstanding examples of library design in this year’s AIA/ALA Library Building Awards. In the past we have seen a Walmart transformed into a library, a controversial starchitect renovation in New York, and an interactive, LED light-show—now take a look at these honored projects. From democratic design in the nation’s capital to a stunning Beaux-Arts restoration in St. Louis and high-tech solutions in North Carolina, this year's winning projects present a range of answers to the challenges facing our fading repositories. The jury for the biannual award included Jeanne M. Jackson, FAIA, Chair, VCBO Architecture; John R. Dale, FAIA, Harley Ellis Devereaux; Charles Forrest, Emory University Libraries; Kathleen Imhoff, Library Consultant; J. Stuart Pettitt, AIA, Straub Pettitt Yaste and John F. Szabo, Los Angeles Public Library. Anacostia Neighborhood Library Washington, D.C. The Freelon Group From the AIA: 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. The project not only fulfilled programmatic needs but also provided a stimulus for community pride and economic development. The residential scale is reflected in the library design as a series of pavilions for program areas that require enclosure: the children’s program room, the young adults’ area, support spaces, and public meeting rooms. The remainder of the level one plan is high, open space for the main reading room, stacks, computers, and public seating areas. A large green roof structure provides shelter over all program areas. Central Library Renovation St. Louis Cannon Design From the AIA: Cass Gilbert’s grand Beaux-Arts library, now 100 years old and a St. Louis cultural landmark, was in need of a transformative restoration that would increase public access and modernize it for the 21st century. 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 multistory book depository closed to the public. The transformation of the north wing truly rejuvenated the library and brought it into the next century. Old book stacks were removed, and a new “building within a building” was inserted. Now, a multistory public atrium provides an accessible and welcoming entry. The new “floating platforms” surround the atrium without touching existing interior walls. Glass-enclosed upper levels house the collection with compact high-density bookshelves. The windows of the north wall, now clear glass, bounce natural light deep into the interior and provide striking views. New York Public Library, Hamilton Grange Teen Center New York City Rice + Libpka Architects From the AIA: 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. In an effort to attract and engage neighborhood youth, the 4,400-square-foot space challenges the norms of library design. The light-filled floor is divided into specific zones that foster small-group interaction and socialization. Visibility is maintained across the entire floor. Two programmatic elements—a 20-foot-diameter Media Vitrine and a bamboo bleacher—occupy the center of the space and work to define the seven zones between and around them. The vitrine’s open-top glass enclosure upends the notion that multimedia spaces must be dark, hyperisolated rooms. The bleacher allows views out to the street from the existing high south-facing windows and provides a sunny hang-out for a range of group sizes. Custom L-shaped lounge benches bracket this space and can be rolled away to allow for other uses and activities. James B. Hunt Library Raleigh, North Carolina Snøhetta and Pear Brinkley Cease + Lee From the AIA: 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. The building would need to be highly programmed and reasonably versatile as well as comfortable and stimulating to visitors. One innovation was the introduction of an automated book delivery system (ABDS), which effectively reduced the total area of the building by 200,000 gross square feet and allowed more space for collaboration and technology. The ABDS is supported by user-friendly browsing software that matches and even enhances the traditional pleasure of browsing a collection. Oak Forest Neighborhood Library Houston NAAA + AWI + JRA From the AIA: 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. 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 graces 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 dedicated adult and teen areas 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. Each age group—from toddlers through teens and adults—now has appropriate facilities, furnishings, and technology. A new lobby and circulation space, lit by a continuous shaded clerestory, occupies the seam between old and new and unites the two entries. South Mountain Community Library Phoenix richärd+brauer From the AIA: The building integrates 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. The design is modeled after that of an integrated circuit, providing insulation between disparate functions and promoting interaction and connection between like functions and spaces. The simple massing of the building is attenuated to focus views on the surrounding mountains and provide shade and transparency. The site was once home to fertile agricultural valleys and citrus groves, and the building consciously merges interior and exterior spaces to connect to the area’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. Variegated cedar strips reinforce the digital aesthetic of the building. Further echoing the design of a circuit board, building systems are organized and expressed within an internally lit independent distribution soffit.
Norwegian/American firm Snøhetta has been enlisted by Temple University to design a new 350,000-square-foot library on the main campus in the northern section of Philadelphia. Craig Dykers, co-founder of the Oslo-based firm, will speak at the University during the 2013 Temple Architecture Week. Next City reported that Snøhetta has yet to release renderings, but they scored an interview with Dykers following his lecture at Temple, where he said "increasingly, universities are realizing that libraries can also be windows, gateways into the campus and immediately connected to the academic life of the place." (Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia.)
While some of the new architecture at Brown University is distinctly modern, Manhattan-based Selldorf Architects has been selected to bring back the historic charm of the circa 1910 English Renaissance John Hay Library. According to the Brown Daily Herald, the project was jumpstarted in February following an anonymous $3 million donation, plus another anonymous $6 million donation for the renovation from 2011. The Hay Library, which houses the university's rare books collection, archives, and other special collections, will be reconfigured to open up the grand 4,400-square-foot reading room to its original design by Boston architects Shepley Rutan & Coolidge. The room is currently divided into parts to securely store sensitive books. The larger space will allow more access to the public and can play host to larger university-related events. Librarian Harriette Hemmasi told the Daily Herald Selldorf Architects was chosen in part for their renovation of the Neue Galerie in New York. "If you’ve been in there, you know it’s really beautiful," Hammasi told the Daily Herald. "And it’s also really tastefully done, so it’s not just sort of sugary, drippy, old-fashioned. But it has sort of an edge to it, sort of a modern and old mix. And that’s what I envisioned for the John Hay, too." The year-long project is expected to get underway this summer.
Before there was the Kindle and the Sony Reader, there were paperback novels, newspapers, magazines, made of tangible materials, like paper and ink. One could ride the subway and sneak a glimpse into the mind of his fellow passengers without ever exchanging a word; the title printed on the cover of the book you were reading might reveal volumes about your interests and curiosities. With the invasion of e-books and e-readers, there is just no way to tell what people are reading these days. Designers Brian W. Bush and Yong Ju Lee of E/B Office New York changed that with their Filament Mind installation that debuted in late January at the grand opening of the Teton County Library in Jackson, Wyoming. Filament Mind is a complex and intricately crafted ceiling installation comprised of over 1,000 fiber-optic cables (totaling over 5 miles) and 44 LED illuminators connected to data processing systems in libraries all across the state of Wyoming. The cables, which are categorized according to the Dewey Decimal System, continuously flash different colors according to the specific words and subjects (for example: “landscape architecture” or “computer methods”) that people enter into the library search system. As users click into different categories and explore new content, the cables burst into an array of colors, making for a truly interactive user experience. With this larger-than-life sized installation Brush and Lee have not only created a visually stunning experience but have also presented library visitors with a unique opportunity to communicate with one another, share and exchange ideas, and inspire each other to delve into subjects that might normally be off their radar. Additionally, the artists honor the donors who funded the project by equipping the installation with a “donor mode.” Periodically the cables will burst into a brilliant light show, randomly glowing from green to pink to blue to yellow. The effect of this technologically detailed installation provides library visitors with a seemingly magical light show that has encouraged people from all across the state to make a trip to the library. “It’s the heart of the community, it’s where people come to share their ideas, and to explore new things to enrich their lives,” says artist Brian Brush. [Via Wired.]
Right as the New York City Housing Authority goes public with its controversial plan to allow developers to build high rises in the middle of public housing developments, the Brooklyn Public Library is taking a similar approach with the hope of mitigating its ongoing financial struggles. The New York Times reports that the library plans on selling off the land beneath two of its branches—The Brooklyn Heights Library at Cadman Plaza and the Pacific Library on Fourth Avenue—to developers who will then tear down the buildings and carve out space for them on the ground floor of their new residential towers. But a number of local residents aren’t pleased with the Library's plans and are concerned that these modern, high-rise iterations will lack that unique community feel and cultural character found in the existing libraries. Once the Pacific Branch, built in 1904 as the first Carnegie library in Brooklyn and designed by architect Raymond Almirall, is torn down, the closest library for patrons in the Boerum Hill and Park Slope neighborhoods will be located in Two Trees' 32-story apartment tower designed by Enrique Norten of Ten Arquitectos, which will also house arts space for BAM and 651 ARTS.
It looks like South Brooklyn will have plenty of new condos, but perhaps a dearth of services. This morning, the board of trustees of the State University of New York (SUNY) voted unanimously to close Long Island College Hospital (LICH) in Cobble Hill. According to DNAinfo, Downstate Medical Center president Dr. John Williams told the board that the hospital “was losing money and draining the entire Downstate system.” Protests ensued at the public hearing from doctors, nurses, and hospital staff. The 200,000-square-foot campus could have a price tag of up to $500 million. This news comes on the heels of an announcement from Brooklyn Public Library officials that they plan to sell the Brooklyn Heights branch to a developer. The over-extended library is in need of $9 million to renovate the building. According to the Brooklyn Paper, the BPL is hoping a private developer will purchase the 25,000-square-foot property and build a residential building that also houses the library on the ground floor. A number of community members expressed their disapproval at the meeting. Luckily for interested developers, both LICH and the Brooklyn Heights branch are already zoned for residential. These pending sales, however, are part of a larger trend that is sweeping the city, and making headlines this week—cash-strapped city agencies and institutions are increasingly stressed and looking to relieve their financial woes by selling off properties to private developers.
New Yorkers, not to mention architecture critics, have been waiting with bated breath to see the plans for the controversial $300 million overhaul of the New York Public Library's historic flagship branch on Fifth Avenue. And today, the designs by Foster + Partners, were finally unveiled. The renovation of the Beaux Arts-style library, completed in 1911 by Carrère and Hastings, will remove seven floors of stacks under the grand Rose Main Reading Room to make way for a 300-person workspace with an expansive atrium, balconies, floor-to-ceiling windows, bookshelves, and new areas devoted to classrooms and computer labs. As of now, interior finishes will include a combination of bronze, wood, and stone. The plan is to transfer approximately 3 million books to new storage spaces beneath Bryant Park, and then send the remaining 1.2 million books to an off-site location in New Jersey. The newly renovated NYPL building on 42nd would then house the collections from the Mid-Manhattan Library and the Innovative Science, Industry, and Business Library. “We are reasserting the library’s main axis and its very special sequence of spaces, from the main Fifth Avenue entrance and the Astor Hall, through the Gottesman Hall, into the dramatic volume of the new circulating library, with views through to the park,” Foster said in a statement on the firm’s website. “Our design does not seek to alter the character of the building, which will remain unmistakably a library in its feel, in its details, materials, and lighting. It will remain a wonderful place to study. The parts that are currently inaccessible will be opened up, inviting the whole of the community—it is a strategy that reflects the principles of a free institution upon which the library was first founded.”