March 24, 2018

New Landmark Libraries 2012: Academic Library Winners and Honorable Mentions

After a successful launch of the inaugural New Landmark Libraries (NLL) in 2011 focusing on public libraries, LJ is proud to present its second list of iconic NLL buildings. This time the spotlight is on academic libraries. Our five NLLs, plus two honorable mentions, will inspire and inform any building project. Don’t hesitate to borrow the ideas and trends highlighted here for your library of the future, or use them to help change perceptions about what your library can do for your campus. Public and school librarians will also find inspiration and insight as the options are highly adaptable.

2012 New  Landmark Library Winners

1. Goucher Athenaeum,
Goucher College, Baltimore.

2. Berkeley Law Library,
University of California.
Ratcliff Architects

3. William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library, Ohio State University, Columbus. Architect:
Acock Associates Architects

4. South Mountain Community Library, Phoenix. Architect: richärd+bauer architecture

5. Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons, Seattle University. Architect:
Pfeiffer Partners Architects, Inc.

Honorable Mentions

Science and Engineering Library, Columbia University,
New York. Architect:: Rafael Moneo Vallés Arquitecto

University of Arizona
Poetry Center
, Tucson.
Line and Space, LLC

To find this year’s winners, we solicited submissions for U.S. academic library projects completed between 2007 and 2011, including new construction, expansions, and major renovations. Using a set of six criteria (see below), our panel of judges—a mix of library, architecture, and design professionals—winnowed the list down to the distinguished group listed in the box to the right.

Each of these libraries is profiled in greater depth in the pages that follow, but there’s no doubt that this year’s winners are all advancing the concept of an academic library. In each, the early planning focused on the needs of the student. Project leaders worked to identify the tools, resources, support, and experiences that aid learning and incorporated them, even when doing so meant breaking the mold.

Each project faced major constraints, like small sites, beloved or challenging existing buildings, or dual service communities, but each successfully overcame those limitations through stakeholder input, meticulous design, new partnerships, and a willingness to step beyond the norms of the past. By reinterpreting the concept of a library, these campuses strengthened their academic image and brought a new level of learning support, interaction, and study and research experience to their students and faculty. This is why they are the New Landmarks.

Trends snapshot

Trends like information commons, collaboration, flexibility, and sustainability have been informing the design of academic libraries over the past decade. The New Landmarks carefully hatch these concepts, yet go beyond to deliver the unexpected in functionality, innovation, and beauty. LJ has identified ten trends in these seven NLL projects.

Library as forum. Goucher College Athenaeum exemplifies this trend. What makes this rendition of the commons so compelling and transformative, beyond its modernist visual delights, is the wrapping of this 24-7 library and other student support services around a central core of an amphitheater-like space whose use can rapidly shift depending on need. At Goucher, going to the library will never be the same.

Partner like never before. There’s no question that academic libraries are moving rapidly into the brave new world of partnerships. Witness the Maricopa County Community College District that partnered with Phoenix Public Library to create a joint librarythat sits at the edge of the South Mountain Community College campus. This isn’t two libraries in one building; this is one library serving two different audiences.

Connect the campus. Take Ohio State’s William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library, which is sited on the campus’s historic “Oval.” Its position between the original campus and expansion areas made it a connector building, but over time renovations removed access and the library blocked the way to different sections of the campus. By removing some of those earlier renovations and creating a clear path through the building, the library became a “public street” to all areas of campus. The result? Ohio State has a wildly successful new destination library.

Light the box. The days of dark and dingy staff offices and stacks are gone. Architects have been mastering the art of daylighting, which, judging by our NLLs, is possible given even the most difficult constraints. Striving to be pedestrian-friendly, the University of California (UC) – Berkeley School of Law LIbrary appears, at ground level, as a transparent pavilion. That’s because most of the addition is below ground. By using an innovative system of natural and artificial light, like skylights, glass walls, and glass walkways, those underground floors are filled with daylight.

Be pedestrian conscious. The new landmarks strive to welcome pedestrians. They acknowledge that passersby want to feel comfortable. Plus, because students and faculty like to walk, sit, and socialize outside, these libraries came up with enticing spaces that draw people inside. What better way to be welcoming than to have a friendly scaled building with inviting outdoor spaces? The addition to the UC–Berkeley Law Library steps down to street level with its transparent pavilion, gradually stepping down the mass of its addition across sloping terrain, creating a natural amphitheater. Goucher College designed its new Athenaeum to enable pedestrian access by rerouting traffic from the campus core.

Support the whole student. Start by asking how your library can support the whole student, and you might get responses that make your library a landmark. First, talk to students, faculty, campus professionals, and community members. That’s what most of our NLLs did. Seattle University’s Lemieux Library deployed large, representative committees, as well as focus groups, to solicit the thoughts and aspirations of students and other stakeholders. That input resulted in a central “iDesk,” various help desks in major traffic paths, roaming librarians easily summoned on their iPhones, and many other features.

Repurpose collection space. With many collections shrinking and the need for other types of spaces growing, some libraries are turning the square footage previously used for collections into seating. Ohio State is the prime example. It’s $79 million library renovation included new construction, but square footage remained about the same. So, by shifting 40 percent of its collections and some staff functions off-site, Ohio State gained 1800 new seats, related learning support services, and flexible study and collaboration spaces needed by students.

Flex for uncertainty. Like our public NLLs, flexibility for an unknown future still rules the roost when it comes to design priorities. Goucher’s Athenaeum installed the rails for compact shelving, but the shelves won’t be set up until needed. Quick reconfiguration of the Athenaeum’s varied spaces means just-in-time classrooms and the wheeled furnishings mean on-the-spot collaborations. Ohio State’s entry-level floor space can be easily reconfigured to allow for informal gatherings, speakers, and performance spots.

Integrate IT. While there are plenty of librarians to be found in our NLLs, some house IT staff and, like Goucher’s Athenaeum, can provide in-depth technical support. The administration of Ohio State’s William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library shares its offices with the campus chief information officer. The CIO operates the “Buckeye Bar” for laptop support and assists thousands of students with technical problems.

Gain by going Gold. Three of the five NLLs, plus one honorable mention, are certified or pending Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Gold status. But all the NLLs and honorable mentions are decidedly green. The NLLs deploy the latest building system efficiencies, minimize their building footprint’s impact on the surroundings, and improve the health of the internal environment through improved ventilation, advanced filtration, and the use of low-emitting materials and finishes.

Photo Credits: top row, l.-r.: photo by Jeff Tryon; photo by Steve Whittaker; photo by Brad Feinknopf. Middle row, l.-r.: photo by Eric Staudenmaier; photo by Bill Timmerman. Bottom row, l.-r.: photo by  Robert Reck Photography; photo by Michael DiVito

The Criteria

When planning your next building project, consider these criteria as a checklist for programming and design and tools to share with your campus or community leaders.

1. Overall design and construction excellence. Consider (a) appropriateness and quality of materials; (b) connections between interior and exterior spaces; (c) durability of building finishes and furnishings; (d) appropriateness of materials used given local circumstances; and (e) responses by stakeholders, community or beyond including recognition, additional funding, and/or symbolic significance.

2. Response to community context and constraints. Consider (a) how stakeholders and staff input shaped the design; (b) any campus or neighborhood improvements such as pedestrian access; (c) any incorporation of multi-functional uses; (d) any creative solutions to local constraints; and (e) an appropriate physical setting.

3. Sustainability. With regard to (a) site selection and development; (b) water efficiency; (c) energy use; (d) materials and resources used; (e) indoor environmental quality; and (f) ongoing education, outreach and operations.

4. Functionality. A new landmark library maximizes functionality in the delivery of library services. What design elements improve the service delivery, experience, and accessibility for students, faculty, community and staff?

5. Innovation. Landmark libraries respond to current and anticipated demographic, cultural and technological changes in innovative ways. Does the building test and prove the viability of new knowledge and assumptions?

6. Beauty and delight. Judges looked for evidence of positive initial impressions, a “wow” factor that delights visitors and any local, state, or national recognition and how does this relate to the design? Is the initial impression and “wow” factor long lasting and why.

The Judges

We thank the distinguished judges who shared their expertise and their time.

Tim de Noble, AIA Professor and Dean, APDesign/Kansas State University, Manhattan

Charles Forrest, Director, Library Facilities, Robert W. Woodruff Library, Emory University Libraries, Atlanta

Toni Garvey, Consultant, retired Phoenix City Librarian

Traci Lesneski, CID, LEED AP BD+C Principal, Head of Interiors, MS&R Ltd., Minneapolis

Brian Mathews, Associate Dean for Learning and Outreach, Virginia Tech Libraries, Blacksburg

Carol Terry, Director of Library Services, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

Louise Schaper About Louise Schaper

Louise Schaper (, retired Executive Director of Fayetteville Public Library, AR, is a Library Consultant and LJ's New Landmark Libraries project lead.

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  1. I just saw all of the beautiful libraries in the “Year in Architecture” issue of LJ (Nov. 26, 2012), and was struck once again at how coldly uniform the libraries are in this article. Couldn’t you find a student or two to be a judge? Perhaps the photography doesn’t do the academic libraries justice. As much as I love lots of light and airy spaces, the trends seems to be away from any hint of coziness. A colleague of mine noted that airports have lots of windows, but no one wants to spend time in an airport.