Attendees of the annual American Library Association (ALA) conference in Anaheim, CA, this past June got an overview of stellar new library interior design when ALA’s Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA) and the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) announced the winners of the latest ALA/IIDA Library Interior Design Competition.
The biennial awards honor excellence in library interior design, incorporating aesthetics, design creativity, function, and satisfaction of the client’s objectives. Seven winners and three honorable mentions were selected out of 117 projects submitted from across North America.
The awards were judged by a mix of design professionals and librarians, including Charles Forrest, Emory University Libraries, Atlanta; Jim Griffo, IIDA and Gresham Smith & Partners; Susan E. Parker, UCLA Library; Stacy Reed, IIDA, LEED AP, ID+C, Gensler; Frederick Schlipf, GSLIS, University of Illinois, Urbana; and Felice L. Silverman, IIDA, Silverman Trykowski Associates.
30,000 square feet and smaller
Julian Street Library
Princeton University, NJ
Joel Sanders Architect, New York
Architect Joel Sanders originally suggested“Princeton orange”—the school color, along with black—and dark wood for his transformation of the university’s Julian Street Library, a 3100 square foot reading room, into a wired, flexible space and state-of-the-art multimedia learning environment.
Yet his client thought there was enough orange on campus. Sanders, a Yale professor who has also designed buildings for Yale, the University of Virginia, and University of Pennsylvania, instead chose teal blue furniture and light, Scandinavian-style wood trim throughout, which was more in keeping with the building’s 1960s-era modernist architecture.
The renovation of the library, part of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, created a fluid connection between a little-used vestibule and the central reading room. Previously a pass-through space, the vestibule, with a new series of terraced benches, a communal library table, and computer terminals, is now an area where students study, relax, and socialize at all hours. Sanders preserved the library’s existing circular overhead lighting fixtures, designed by architect Michael Graves.
A broad blue ramp leads to the main room, which is divided into two zones: a quiet study area with maple acoustical paneling and computers and a casual study area with blue upholstered banquettes. The workstations, an AV studio, and communal worktable facilitate collaborative study.
The space is also flexible: mobile furniture and sliding panels allow the library to be opened up for dining and dancing, as well as studying.
Over 30,000 Square Feet
Harris Learning Library
Nipissing University and Canadore College
North Bay, Ont.
Diamond and Schmitt Architects/Evans Bertrand Hill Wheeler Architecture Inc., Toronto
A key architectural element in the Harris Learning Library, a three-story, 56,000 square foot building, is a three-story skylight atrium that serves as the axis for student orientation. Diamond and Schmitt Architects, the winner of multiple design awards for more than 30 other public and academic libraries, complemented this dramatic feature with two glass walls bookending the building, which has a two-story study hall at one end and service space on the other. An innovative terraced reading area with built-in seating occupies a gentle grade between the first and second floor. The periodical reading room looks out onto the surrounding evergreen forest landscape.
The first two floors are oriented toward social learning spaces, while the third floor provides areas for more quiet, focused study. Group study space, computer rooms, distance learning facilities, informal study space, and traditional reading rooms all serve the library’s goal to be a resource center for information exchange.
30,000 Square Feet and Smaller
Anacostia Neighborhood Library
The Freelon Group, Durham, NC
The new 22,348 square foot, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold-certified building, conceived by the Freelon Group of North Carolina, has the appearance of a series of pavilions in scale with the surrounding residences. Skylights invite natural light into the stacks and the main reading space, while a perforated metal sunshade covers portions of the façade to block excess heat and glare from the sun. A translucent, scrimlike roof and exterior glazing provide a connection to the outdoors and bring in additional light, decreasing energy usage.
Interior spaces in the library, which has an open plan serving the stacks and the seating areas, include a large public meeting room accommodating about 100 people, two additional meeting rooms, and smaller spaces for group study and tutoring. The exceptionally large new children’s area has separate sections dedicated to different age groups—five and under, beginning readers, and elementary-school age, as well as a separate YA area.
A raised floor housing electrical and mechanical systems provides design flexibility, while lighting controls, including occupancy and daylight sensors and dimmers, further monitor energy output.
Over 30,000 Square Feet
McAllen Public Library, TX
Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle, Ltd.
“Everything is an expression of growth” in the gigantic Main Library of the McAllen Public Library, located in a former Walmart store, says interim director Kathleen Horan. The region is a major locus for bird migration, and the library’s designers incorporated natural motifs into the scheme and wayfinding devices throughout this 124,500 square foot structure, the largest single-story library in the country. The patchwork green carpet simulates a bird’s-eye view of the valley region. Elsewhere, the architects, MS&R, Ltd. of Minneapolis, took the Fibonacci sequence of numbers as one design theme and used imagery of mesquite trees native to the area as another.
The designers’ main challenge was to create a navigable space where people wouldn’t get lost. They painted the interior and new mechanical systems white, locating the programming spaces in quadrants set off by different colors. Wayfinding is facilitated by a central service spine with a patterned wood ceiling running the length of the building. A second, perpendicular orange spine helps demarcate the public meeting rooms, staff area, and children’s and adult areas.
Oversized, brightly colored ceiling pendants stand as signage and “bring the ceiling down” to create cozy seating arrangements underneath, says Horan. The spy-themed YA section, called “Area 3918,” is acoustically separated from the rest of the library by a partially frosted glass wall.
Patronage has nearly doubled in the new building, says Horan, with 60,000 to 70,000 people visiting each month. Thanks to the superbly integrated wayfinding, “people have a sense of excitement and purpose as soon as they [enter].”
Mattapan Branch, Boston Public Library
William Rawn Associates, Architects, Inc., Boston
Ramsey County Roseville Library, MN
Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle, Ltd. (MS&R), Minneapolis
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, NY
Centerbrook Architects and Planners, Centerbrook, CT
The library at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory houses the personal archives of science luminaries including Nobel Laureate James D. Watson, Barbara McClintock, and Alfred D. Hershey; a rare book collection; and over 100,000 photographs chronicling the advent of molecular biology. So when Centerbrook Architects was contacted to renovate the 1905 library building and to create an addition with a new reading room and space for these venerable archives, it strove for something with a “sense of history,” says Centerbrook partner James Childress: a “hallowed place that is calm, quiet, and intellectual.”
The 4,425 square foot addition uses the same materials and details found in the original building but interpreted in modern terms. Main features include a high ceiling, new oak rafters, warm wood paneling, expansive windows, and soft yellow walls. Though the building has “as sophisticated tech as anybody,” says Childress, the impression is of a historic continuum.
In the main building, Childress and his colleagues oversaw the replacement of all the walls, ceilings, and light fixtures, along with the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. They also reopened archways that had been concealed in prior renovations and restored original oak trim and stair rails and banisters.
Since the site is prone to occasional flooding, Centerbrook’s basement design is also state-of-the-art: it is basically “a waterproof vault with a submarine door,” says Childress.
Atlanta University Center–Woodruff Library Learning Commons
Shepley Bulfinch, Boston
Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, Boston Public Library
On the Boards (not yet built)
Preston Royal Replacement
Branch Library, Dallas
Perkins + Will, Dallas