March 16, 2018

Year in Architecture 2016: Open for Business

Architecture 2016

This year’s selection of library construction efforts are each unique in their own way, but most share a significant guiding principle: keep it open. The 105 capital projects completed between July 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016, exemplify a dedication to the totality of users’ experience with regard to sight lines, maneuverability, accessibility, and natural light but also in consideration of others’ ideas, needs, and potential. With atria, lots of glass, and coworking and group study spaces, libraries are indeed open for business.
Overview Architects
The Data
Academic Libraries Public Libraries Six-Year Summary

Architecture 2016 - ImageGalleries

This is an expanded version of the Architecture Issue that appeared in print November 15, 2016. Opener image: the Christa McAuliffe Branch Library, Framingham, MA.
Architectural design by Finegold Alexander Architects. Photo by Gustav Hoiland, Flagship Photo
Access and Flow Creativity is a Blank Canvas Ambiance and Academics Designed to Shine Reimagining and Remembering Oh, To Be a Child Again Grand and Glorious High, Wide, and Handsome


Among our baker’s dozen of academic projects, a large portion of the first floor of the new Bibliothèque Desjardins, the first building on the new campus of the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Drummondville, consists entirely of windows, flooding the space with natural light. The site was home to a former missionary congregation. The transformation of the brutalist Mendel Gottesman Library at New York’s Yeshiva University improved the visual relation of the suspended stack levels at the center of a four-level space.

At Maine’s Bowdoin College, the Media Commons in the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library features studios for audio and video recording, editing, and production. The Fenwick Library at George Mason University, Washington, DC, features multi­use instructional spaces designed with movable partitions to accommodate a range of seating capacities.

The Castle Pines Branch of Douglas County Libraries, CO, went from a 2,300 square foot storefront to a two-story, 15,000 square foot structure. The second-story terrace has an outdoor fireplace and a green roof. Not to be outdone, the system’s Lone Tree Branch has three terraces and interactive alcoves. A metal screen solar veil regulates the temperature.

Designed to be reflective of the local seaside vernacular, the Lewes Public Library, DE, took its cues from old lifesaving stations. The interior features natural light provided by a central spine of clerestory windows. The two-level Alpharetta Library, part of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System, creates a defining front porch to the city center. Atlanta’s Metropolitan Branch consists of simple geometric volumes knit together, with the glass box reading room representing a totally open floor plan.

The design of the Christa McAuliffe Branch Library, Framingham, MA (on our cover), was inspired by the life of teacher McAuliffe, the first lay astronaut (and a Framingham native), who died in the Challenger space shuttle disaster in 1986. Referencing flight and a nod to the stars, the building features an expansive children’s space that flows into the adult reading area underneath a soaring roof.

The Hennepin County Library–Brooklyn Park, MN, houses a wind-tunnel learning installation, a giant microscope, and engineering challenge cubes, all developed in conjunction with the Minnesota Children’s Museum. An expanded children’s area with discovery-themed details, a new business center, and an enlarged teen zone enhance the Lewis & Clark Branch of the St. Louis County Library. The Parsons Branch, Columbus Metropolitan Library, OH, targets service to customers of all ages, with a Ready for Kindergarten area, a brightly lit children’s area with a sunken story time space, a mother’s room, and a fireplace.

The distinctive arched roof of the Hewitt Public Library, TX, beckons visitors, while its teen area features a 3-D printer that “one teenager uses to design and create buttons for her own business.”

The Weber County Library HQ and Southwest Branch, Roy, UT, includes a 255-seat black box theater, a public gallery, a catering kitchen, and a cyber café. Both the east and west wings frame views of the adjacent George Wahlen North Park.


The Dayton Metro Library’s Northwest Library is organized around an atrium marketplace, an idea that struck a chord as the branch was awarded an Honorable Mention by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Dayton Chapter for Newly Completed Buildings. The second floor of the Marmalade Branch of the Salt Lake City Public Library features a wraparound terrace. The entire building was named a 2016 Best Small Project in the Engineering News-Record, Mountain States special regional coverage (10/24/16).

The Varina Area Library, Henrico County Public Library, VA, has a demonstration kitchen and large glass windows with views of the nearby wetlands and woods. With a nod to the Puget Sound community, Kitsap Regional Library’s Kingston Branch, WA, incorporates sea and shore elements throughout.

A vacated grocery store conversion, the Betty Rodriguez Regional Library, Fresno, CA, now has “light shafts” clad in perforated metal panels to define the main circulation path. The major remodel to the Scoville Memorial Library, Salisbury, CT, which opened in 1895, encompassed a new staircase, a new children’s area with a garden, and flexible reading and study areas.


The Hereford Branch, Baltimore County Public Library, was completely redesigned and renovated after flooding forced the building to close. The facility features a flexible design with open spaces, an expanded children’s area, and the Hive, a collaborative art-Maker space. The Waterbury Public Library commissioners had been trying to replace the overcrowded, historic building housing the library since 1916 when tropical storm Irene flooded much of the business district. Now, the library hosts everything from tai chi classes to an adult coloring club to book discussions. The Lake City Public Library, MN, boasts a new fireplace, a vaulted lobby space with a skylight, and a “Color Me Thursdays” program for teens and adults. Minnesota’s Marshall-Lyon County Library includes a new children’s wing that is entered through replicas of large children’s books. The Northfield Public Library, MN, upgraded with a glass atrium/commons to combine a 1910 Carnegie building with a 1982 addition.


Much of the existing architecture of the original branch of the Jamestown Bluff Branch, Florissant, MO, was retained in the remodel, such as the cathedral-like roofline and the tall windows at the “prow” of the building. The Rock Road Branch, St. Ann, MO, added a business center and dedicated areas for children and teens. The Wildwood Crest Branch, Cape May County, NJ, was inspired by the beach region’s iconic Doo Wop style architecture, with a children’s area that includes a carpet pool and hot tub and umbrella chairs. The new Hudson Area Library, NY, located in the newly renovated Hudson historic armory, includes a repurposed 12,000 square foot drill shed that serves as the main space.

While the Richland Library, Columbia, SC, encompasses a state-of-the-art Business, Careers and Research Center, the Nashville Public Library includes a reading fort crafted as an homage to the city’s skyline encouraging children to “climb, explore, and find the perfect reading nook.”

The new wing of the Raleigh Court Branch, Roanoke, VA, encompasses large glass curtain walls and an adult reading room as well as a large interactive children’s learning center. The Tippecanoe Branch, Milwaukee, has an outdoor garden for children’s programming and makes the most of great natural light.

Openness is at the heart of these new buildings and renovations, which, one hopes, will become the pulse of their communities for years to come.

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox ( is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Celebrating her 46th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ’s Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews.

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  1. Confused about what name is this Library and located where? Framingham, MA? Thanks.

    • The cover photo is the Christa McAuliffe Branch library in Framingham, MA. Town meeting required that this new library have the same staffing and collection as the previous branch library (although they have since increased hours due to popular demand). This new library is 3x the size of the old, the staff can no longer touch all working staffers with a single 10′ pole, and the children’s books are no longer shelved up to 6′ high. There are places to sit and read, meeting rooms, places for story time, and it was built with the electrical demands of modern tech in mind. Plus the roof doesn’t leak and the boiler works. Only drawback is the old one was within kids’ biking distance of my house and the new one is twice as far away.

  2. Great post! I can’t get over how amazing the Building in the image looks. I really love all the windows.