From the Andrew Carnegie–era temples of learning to the small cinderblock “Lindsay boxes” built during Mayor John Lindsay’s administration from 1966–1973, New York City’s 207 library branches are as varied as its population. And like much of the city, they are feeling the crunch of budget cuts and neglect.
Wayfinding in libraries is too often an afterthought. But not in Vancouver, WA, where the newly constructed Vancouver Community Library (VCL) had signage planned into the design. The Fort Vancouver Regional Library District hired the Miller Hull Partnership architects as well as wayfinding specialists Mayer/Reed and AldrichPears for “interpretive installation.” The result is an intuitive setup that gives patrons the broad brushstrokes at a glance, while being future-proof enough to accommodate shifts in the collection in the years to come.
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.
Over the past couple of years my colleague Kathleen Sheehan and I have been working with a Library Student Interest Group, sponsored by the College Library and the Harvard Undergraduate Council, and we’ve met some great students through this work. Allison Gofman is one of the students who has been part of the LSIG. She is also a photographer. This past year, for her final project in the course, United States in the World 30: Tangible Things: Harvard Collections in World History, Allison created the beautiful online book, Harvard Libraries: Books That Breathe. It “is a visual exploration of the libraries as physical spaces: not only as beautiful architecture or as a collection of books, but as a unique intersection of the two.”
After completing a complicated four-plus-year construction project, the Golden State is seeking silver this time—a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification for its newly renovated Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building, to be precise. The reopening celebration for the California State Library (CSL) was held in February and capped a remarkable collaborative effort led by California’s Department of General Services (DGS), landlords of the property.
Public libraries are busier and more popular with patrons than ever. Today’s library is a place for social interaction as well as quiet reading. It is a community cultural center, not simply a repository for books. It is a welcoming building with a design focus on transparency, not a series of isolated spaces. These changing operations directly affect the layout and organization of library buildings. So, libraries today must be designed to accommodate more simplified administrative operations and new staff functions.
Monterrey is the third largest city in Mexico and an urban area rich in history and culture. It is also home to Fundidora Park, a Museum of Industrial Archaeology created from a steel foundry established in 1900. The expansive park includes recreation areas, auditoriums, convention centers, theme parks, hotels, and museums, along with the historic industrial structures from the foundry (blast furnaces, chimneys, and more). On July 2, 2013, the complex added a library to the mix. The children’s library Niños Conarte provides a unique, interactive space to encourage reading and art education.
When it comes to thinking about lighting, two common misconceptions dominate library design. The first is that cutting energy consumption equals sustainability—it doesn’t. Then there’s the notion that everything in a library space should be equally lit, which in practice just means that lighting fails to draw attention to or emphasize any part of the space. Dashing these notions guided the lighting design during the renovation of Madison Public Library’s (MPL) Central Library, WI. The result is an architecturally integrated lighting system that helps to transform a decrepit 1965 building into a state-of-the-art facility, registered for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification, with a highly flexible architectural interior and an operational lighting demand almost half of what is allowed by code.