Five years ago, a burning question evolved into what is now the ongoing New Landmark Libraries (NLL) project. Often in conversation with librarians on the verge of construction, I was asked which libraries should be on a “must see” list. Beyond the go-to, big name projects, we at LJ had our favorites recently opened, but our lists were personal and not comprehensive. Hence, the New Landmark Libraries. The national competition was designed to bring forward the excellence in library buildings for celebration, as a tour planner for those approaching a capital project, and as a road map for the next generation of libraries still not even on the boards.
Iconic. That word comes up again and again in descriptions of the soaring new San Diego Central Library. A lattice dome tops the warm wood and concrete nine-story structure, a striking presence in the city’s skyline. It is a fitting tribute to the 30 years of effort and almost unprecedented philanthropy from community members that went into creating the landscape-changing new library.
Iowa’s Cedar Rapids Public Library faced disaster in 2008: a “500-year flood” that ruined homes, businesses, and the main, downtown branch of the public library. The library was filled with eight feet of water, which damaged the building and materials beyond repair. A group with a vision saw the silver lining and seized the opportunity to plan for a new library based on three main ideas.
When the City of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, had an opportunity to rebuild the Jasper Place Branch of the Edmonton Public Library, (EPL) it aspired to create an open and memorable presence that considered the question: “What is a library that has no books?” In response to this provocative inquiry, the new branch provides the established suburban neighborhood with a new social heart. While the resulting library does not literally lack a print collection, compared to the library it replaces, it is twice as big yet holds fewer titles than the old building. Architectural features, such as extra wide stairs, pull double duty in this new building—serving both functional and social needs by offering space for patrons to sit.
This library vibrates with the energy of its community. Situated in the center of the 9.5-acre Virginia Avenue Park, the Pico Branch Library embraced the “community living room” concept design driven by the people in the surrounding neighborhood, always the first step to creating a destination library. Did it work? The 1,372 new library patrons registered in the first eight months of the life of this new building say yes.
The leadership at Fort Vancouver Regional Library District in Vancouver, WA, realized how quickly and drastically the library can change. With this in mind, the new Vancouver Community Library, completed in 2012, was built to evolve with technology as well as the library’s perceptive role in the community.
Welcome to the latest round of the New Landmark Libraries (NLL). It’s been four years since the NLL project launched, first identifying 20 public libraries and the following year seven academic libraries from nationwide to help inform and inspire those facing the opportunity of renovating or building a new library. This year, LJ returns to the public library arena to pinpoint the most exciting public libraries completed since that initial foray. We received more than 80 submissions from across the United States and Canada. The exceptional quality of these submissions, from every region, showcases the evolving strength of public libraries today.