October 24, 2014

Making Room for Community | Design4Impact

The West Jordan Library, UT, is the new central headquarters for the Salt Lake County Library (SLCL) system. You might think a building of more than 70,000 square feet would not have to worry about efficient ways to make space do double, or even triple, duty. But when it houses 20,000 square feet of administration, management support, and information technology and another 20,000 square feet of library proper including room for 150,000 titles, it makes sense that the 7,100 square foot community room is designed to serve multiple functions.

Yet where a multipurpose room often ends up being a blank space with few if any notable features, at least not built-in ones, SLCL, MHTN Architects, and builders Jacobsen Construction have gone another route.

ljx140602webD4I1b1 Making Room for Community | Design4Impact

OPEN TO ANYTHING SLCL’s hangar door joins flexible interior space to an outdoor amphi­theater (top), shaded by
solar panels. High-end bleachers were installed (bottom rt.), to provide theater-style seating (bottom l.).
Completed photos by Rebecca Miller; construction photo c/o SLCL

Transforming in real time

With an identity of its own, as the Viridian Event Center, the community event space is far from an afterthought. It even has its own website in addition to the library’s, at www.viridiancenter.org. It is designed to serve not just the local surround but the whole town as part of its civic campus, extending and enhancing the library ­experience.

The main room encompasses seating that retracts to free the floor for dances, martial arts classes, markets or festivals, and other activities. But don’t picture the uncomfortable tailbones that can accompany watching high school athletics; these bleachers, from the Hussey Seating Company, took up $90,000 of the project’s total $14 million budget and offer full theater seats. The space can accommodate up to 1,000 people, lecture style, or 400–500 at banquet tables. A pair of screens drop down for movie viewing, and a portable stage can be configured in a variety of ways. A nearby catering kitchen features power outlets suspended from the ceiling for flexibility ease of use.

Removable walls allow conversion into three separate rooms, with high-performance barriers absorbing enough sound to locate noisy events adjacent to quiet ones. They “work quite well—and we have distributed sound throughout the facility, which helps modulates the sound,” Director Jim Cooper tells LJ. “Although, I’ve gotta say, when we host a Battle of the Bands, it’s wise not to schedule anything else.”

A huge, garage-style bifold glazed door opens to connect the rooms to a fourth space: a 12,000 square foot outdoor amphitheater that seats another 300 people. This space provides a warm-weather alternative and connects the library to the neighboring park and rodeo. The aircraft hangar door was locally manufactured and not broken out as a separate budget line, but Cooper estimates it cost about $100,000. When LJ’s Rebecca Miller saw the space as part of a Design Institute tour, music played as the door was opened to highlight the occasion as an event. The resulting indoor-outdoor venue links performances and presentations during the largest seasonal activities, like the Annual Summer Reading Kick-Off.

Above the outdoor seating, a canopy of photovoltaic panels affords substantial shade while generating electricity and contains a speaker system for broadcasting music or amplified spoken words. The structure also, as it turns out, provides a home for nesting ravens, which the library staff have named Nevermore and Lenore.

Deep green

The center’s name, Veridian, is designed to evoke a deep shade of green. Fittingly, the building’s connection to nature isn’t limited to the patron experience but continues into the behind-the-scenes systems. The building is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certified. To demonstrate its sustainability, the building’s energy production, consumption, weather, and many other parameters can be viewed at the library’s online smart building kiosk, including real-time solar energy output from the photovoltaic shades.

Since it opened in June 2012, the event space has hosted signings, screenings, symphonies, and even classes on how not to date a jerk. The event center is also available for weddings, graduations, etc, which generates revenue for the library and exposes new users to all that a modern library is designed to offer.

This article was published in Library Journal's June 15, 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Meredith Schwartz About Meredith Schwartz

Meredith Schwartz (mschwartz@mediasourceinc.com) is Senior Editor, News and Features of Library Journal.

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