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.
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Congress held a hearing today to discuss the funding and controversial design of the Dwight D. Eisenhower memorial designed by Frank Gehry. Representative Rob Bishop is leading the charge with a new bill that aims to oust Gehry from the $142 million project and hold a new competition to find a more “appropriate” design. The Washington Post reported that the main gripe is over the massive metal tapestries encompassing the memorial, which would display images of Eisenhower’s early childhood in Kansas. The Eisenhower family has expressed that the grandiose scale of the design, specifically the tapestries, is out of touch with the former president’s character. Architect magazine live tweeted that there were few defenders of Gehry's memorial at the hearing except for Rep. Holt, and a fair share of confusion over what this bill entails and ultimately means for the future of the memorial.
Since announcing his first North American project in New York and opening an office in the Big Apple, BIG-founder Bjarke Ingels has been moving fast. His meteoric ascent into a Danish-American icon is happening so quickly, that the starchitect has landed himself in the Smithsonian, in a manner of speaking. The venerable institution has just hired Ingels to prepare a master plan for the museum's Washington, D.C. campus, and we're left wondering if that might mean a new mountain range rising off the National Mall. The Washington Business Journal reported today that the Smithsonian signed a $2.4 million contract with BIG to create the first phase of the master plan, a task that is expected to take around 8 to 12 months. The project site is bounded by Jefferson Drive along the National Mall, Seventh Street SW, Independence Avenue SW, and 12th Street SW, as indicated on the map below. The study area includes many iconic Smithsonian buildings including the Smithsonian Castle (above) and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (top). According to the WBJ, the team from BIG will investigate all buildings in the area, studying the architecture, engineering, and programming of the campus in order to recommend a "gateway" that promotes rest, education, and connects with the National Mall to the north. Among the challenges the campus currently presents is a disconnected flow of public space, dark and uninviting interior spaces, and dilapidated quarters.
No one understood airports quite like Eero Saarinen. His swooping Dulles International Airport turned 50 over the weekend and its uplifting form is still inspiring today. Saarinen was quite proud of it, too, declaring the building "the best thing I have ever done." The control tower and main terminal building at Dulles opened on November 17, 1962, formally dedicated by President John F. Kennedy. The airport was named for Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. Also, if you're in Los Angeles, be sure to check out the A+D Architecture and Design Museum's exhibition on Saarinen, now up through January 3rd.
Parks for the People The Octagon Museum 1799 New York Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. Through November 30 Parks for the People presents student ideas of how to reimagine our national parks as natural, social, and cultural destinations. Teams from City College of New York, Rutgers, Cornell, Florida International University, Kansas State, Pratt, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Washington competed in a semester long studio, engaging questions of the preservation, sustainability, accessibility, and technology in 21st century national parks. The National Parks Service, Van Alen Institute, and the National Parks Conservation Association sponsored the competition, which ultimately declared the teams from City College, for their work on the Nicodemus National Historic Site in Kansas, and Rutgers, for their project at the Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site in Pennsylvania (above), the winners. All seven entries, each representing a different region of the country, will be on view at the Octagon Museum in Washington, D.C.
How many Americans know that the Eisenhower Memorial will be the largest presidential memorial in Washington, D.C.? Or that it will be using untested, experimental elements for the first time? Or that it will cost nearly as much to build as the neighboring memorials to Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson combined? These basic facts are still not widely known because the current design has emerged from a planning process that limited rather than encouraged public participation. It has also led directly to a controversy that has stalled the project in regulatory and political limbo and left its supporters and critics without common ground. We need public input to find the consensus that this and every memorial needs. At least one federal agency is already working toward that outcome. Recently the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), which reviews all major physical changes to the District of Columbia, called for more public feedback before it will decide whether to approve the current design. In September, it refused to hear the Eisenhower Memorial Commission’s (unannounced) request for preliminary design approval and published its application online. This was the first full public disclosure regarding the Eisenhower Memorial, and it reveals practical as well as principled reasons for the NCPC’s delay. These include unresolved technical questions about the design’s main feature, a set of suspended steel “tapestries” eight stories tall, and a record of official doubts about their size and placement. The Commission of Fine Arts has even suggested eliminating them altogether. The current design is neither as feasible nor as popular as the Eisenhower Memorial Commission has represented it to be. It won’t be cheap, either. The cost of the Eisenhower Memorial is $142 million, a huge increase over its original budget of $55 to $75 million, which was comparable to those of previous presidential memorials. The skyrocketing cost follows a familiar pattern with architect Frank Gehry, the memorial’s designer. The final cost of many of his buildings exceeds their original budgets, sometimes several times over. Typically, asthese buildings are private, wealthy donors and institutions pick up the additional cost. But the Eisenhower Memorial is public, which means we, the taxpayers,will be paying for it. Do we realize we are being asked to commit an open-ended budget to an experimental design? Public debate has been forestalled as well as squelched. The Eisenhower Memorial Commission rejected established practice to choose its architect through a process that excluded public participation. It considered only registered architects to design the memorial, whom it alerted on one government website. The Commission evaluated these architects on the basis of their reputations and experience, criteria that whittled away all but established contenders. The drawbacks of this closed process, moreover, are well known. The only other time it was tried, for the World War II Memorial, it had to be abandoned after a public outcry over its exclusive and undemocratic character. The Eisenhower Memorial Commission’s decision to revive this discredited process was so unusual that it is the subject of a Congressional investigation by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa. A public memorial conceived in this closed and secretive fashion is unlikely to become a unifying national symbol. We should return to the established democratic tradition rejected by the Eisenhower Memorial Commission. Our national memorials are typically designed through open public competitions, which consider anonymous designs from anyone who wants to submit one. This process echoes and reinforces our democratic political process, which helps explain why we keep using it, from the White House and the U.S. Capitol to four of the last five memorials built on the National Mall and all three of the national September 11th memorials. The current impasse over this memorial shows what happens in a democratic culture of competing ideas when consensus is hoped for at the end rather than planned for from the beginning. No one debates, however, that such consensus is necessary, and we should find paths to it wherever we can. The NCPC has now provided one. The public has the opportunity and the responsibility to make its opinion known. Sam Roche is a writer and a lecturer at the University of Miami School of Architecture. He is the spokesman for Right by Ike: Project for a New Eisenhower Memorial.
The Freelon Group showed off renderings for their renovation of Mies van der Rohe’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in downtown Washington, D.C. Presented to the library’s Board of Directors as part of a long-running discussion over what to do with the central library, the scheme includes a four-story atrium, two additional floors for new tenants, a landscaped public roof garden, and a new ground-level café. According to developer Jair Lynch, the project would cost $175 to $200 million.
The National Building Museum's latest exhibit presents a new way to beat the summer heat—12 holes of mini-golf designed by prominent local architects, landscape architects, and developers. But if it’s windmills and castles you’re after, tee off elsewhere. While the course is a challenge, it offers an intriguing (and very engaging) look at Washington’s architectural history and future. The first hole, Take Back the Streets!, is presented by the American Society of Landscape Architects and was designed by students of the Virginia Tech Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center. The team built a segment of streetscape with dedicated transit and bike lanes, and players must aim through pedestrians and stormwater management swales that function as traps. OLIN and STUDIOS Architecture created a hole based on their Canal Park project, set to open this fall near the Washington Navy Yard. Putters can aim up a ramp and through suspended cubes that mimic the development's pavilions, and if that proves too difficult, around PVC pipes representing trees to a separate hole. Ball on the Mall by E/L Studio forces players to navigate the iconic cartography of the National Mall. The design team used a CNC mill to map streets and cut grooves through which the golf ball travels. (You can blame l'Enfant for not making par on this one.) Slightly more abstract is Grizform Design's Hole in 1s and 0s, a representation of a smart phone's inner workings. Walls of the very three-dimensional hole are covered with lights and wires and ramps running down either side. Each forking ramp is made up of laminated laser-cut wood. Choose the right ramp and it's an easy hole-in-one, choose the other and you may spend some time chasing after your ball. (Or take a mulligan; we won't tell!) Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, biggest name of the lot, presents a pixelated topography of the Potomac and Anacostia basins titled Confluence. The team overlayed an image of Pierre l'Enfant's masterplan for Washington with a recent satellite image, extruding the pixels according to the density of development. Feel up to the challenge of navigating Washington with a golf club? Visit the National Building Museum anytime from now through September 3. A round of mini-golf is $5 per person, $3 with Museum ticket or membership. And don't forget to vote for your favorite design!
In the perennial battle of rads versus trads, Penn professor and former Slate architecture critic Witold Rybczynski often sides with the trads. So it was a bit of a surprise to see Rybczynski take to the op-ed page of the New York Times in defense of Frank Genry's design for the Eisenhower memorial. Genry's design has numerous critics including two of Eisenhower's granddaughters, as well as the usual suspects who think classicism is the only appropriate approach to everything really, especially if it involves patriotism, presidents, or Washington D.C. Rybczynski calls Gehry "our finest living architect" and worries that a design-by-committee approach will undermine the quality of the memorial. Or as Eisenhower might have said, beware of the classicist/reactionary complex.
National Geographic's Washington D.C. headquarters will be getting a facelift. New York-based Weiss/Manfredi has been selected to renovate and expand the society's collection of buildings built over the past century. The firm has been tasked with creating a "dynamic new expression" for National Geographic to facilitate its museum, research activities, media, and international programs. Weiss/Manfredi was selected over Diller Scofidio+Renfro, Diamond Schmitt Architects, and Steven Holl Architects.
Part of this year's Digital Capital Week, the project turns games into donations for a charitable cause.When Washington, D.C.-area designers Hiroshi Jacobs, Jonathan Grinham, and Kash Bennett were asked to create an installation for Digital Capital Week’s 24-Hour City Project, which seeks to improve urban environments with creative technology, they knew it had to be more than just something to look at. The team created Play It Forward, an interactive, motion-sensing display that donates a small amount of money to charity each time someone plays with it. Unveiled at the technology festival’s closing party at Arena Stage and now part of an exhibit at D.C.’s Project 4 Gallery, the installation demonstrates how advanced parametric design and digital fabrication methods can work together to encourage interaction and promote social change in the process. Once the design trio won 24-Hour's $1,000 grant to design their project, they had only a month to create it. Budget and time aside, the project's main challenge was modeling the entire interactive system by hand. “We had to integrate a number of systems into the fabrication,” said Jacobs. “It's the surface itself, the connections between units, and also the connections from the individual units to the structure. It's a little different from a project where you have one material and one connection system.” The piece was fabricated with the help of fabrication equipment and students from the School of Architecture and Planning at The Catholic University of America. Its exterior of white polyethylene was chosen for cost, and the project's units were sized so that two could be CNC-cut from a single 11-by-17-inch sheet. But the installation's exterior, a white, wavelike form that lights up in red, belies its complicated innards: 432 hardware connections, 72 photoelectric sensors, 288 LEDs, and more than 1,000 feet of electrical wiring, all assembled to create a new form of social interaction. Sensors located across the piece allow installation visitors to play a simple game in which LEDs provide visual feedback. For the initial presentation, each game resulted in between $1 and $4 being donated to KaBOOM!, a charity that builds playgrounds in needy neighborhoods. The piece generates a digital readout of how much money has been donated, while players are prompted to share their experience via social networks. This physical-digital interaction is made possible with an Arduino microcontroller working in conjunction with the sensors and LEDs. The designers describe the system in a project statement:
As the game is played, the microcontroller transmits game data via processing to an internet data hosting website called Pachube, which in turn is accessed by a custom-developed website that displayed statistics about the most-recent game. Players access the website on their smart phones by scanning an individualized QR code that is displayed on an Apple iPad near the installation.For the next two weeks, the piece will be installed at Project 4 as part of an exhibition related to digital fabrication that will also include some of Catholic University's work for the Solar Decathlon. The designers see Play It Forward as part of a larger goal to influence architecture. “The most interesting thing to us is not any one of those individual technologies, but using them together,” said Jacobs. “I think this could happen on a bigger scale in a more permanent way.”
The Trust for the National Mall has announced the finalists for the first round of its National Mall Design Competition. The 700-acres of parkland have been worn down over the years thanks hoards of visitors (25 million a year), marches, and certain bi-annual decathalons. The scope of the competition includes three distinct areas of the mall: Union Square, the Washington Monument Grounds at Sylvan Theater, and Constitution Gardens. Finalists were selected for each area, and will move on to stage two of the competition (team interviews), and then—finally—a selected few will be asked to envision a design for one of the three designated area. From over 1,200 entrants, here are the firms who made the first round cut: Union Square Diller Scofidio Renfro & Hood Design Gustafson Guthrie Nichol & AEDAS Pei Cobb Freed & Partners Architects & Workshop: Ken Smith Landscape Architect Reed Hilderbrand & Chan Krieger NBBJ Rogers Marvel Architects & Peter Walker Snohetta & AECOM Washington Monument Grounds Balmori Associates & Work Architect Company Diller Scofidio Renfro & Hood Design Handel Architects & W Architecture and Landscape Architecture Michael Maltzan Architecture & Tom Leader Studio OLIN & Weiss/Manfredi Ten Arquitectos & Andrea Cochran Landscape Architects Constitution Gardens Adropogon & Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Lee and Associates & Arthur Cotton Moore/Associates McKissack & McKissack & Oehme Van Sweden Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architect & Paul Murdoch Architects OLIN & Weiss/Manfredi Rogers Marvel Architects & Peter Walker and Partners