The new 9,740 SF Washington Manor Branch Library sets a new standard for architectural excellence and operational efficiency in neighborhood libraries. The new library replaces its 2,000 SF predecessor on a compact site linking a residential area with a small, vibrant commercial district in the heart of an ethnically diverse community of nearly 30,000 residents. The challenge was to meet the communitys needs including a 30,000 volume collection, 26 computers, community program room, childrens and teen spaces, group study space, and parking for 32 cars on the site in a scale that complements the librarys urban context. Library and city staff, community members, and the architect collaborated to develop a functional library that is a local landmark and source of civic pride.
The librarys design is modern, dynamic, warm, and inviting. The butterfly roof maximizes interior open space through a system of glu-lam beams spanning from a central spine stiffened with a system of trusses. The inclined steel columns are supported by concrete plinths that penetrate the similarly canted curtain walls to create intimate interior seating spaces. The strong orientation of the roofs central spine aids in wayfinding, while its upward sweep to the exterior culminates in clerestory windows that admit generous daylight to interior spaces. The new public plaza and the richly layered faade engage the street, connecting interior public spaces with passing pedestrians. The buildings orientation maximizes the use of daylight throughout. Below the south-facing clerestories, a low roof creates an intimate feeling inside and an appropriate pedestrian scale for the street. Integrated sun shades on the south and west faades minimize thermal gain while sensors dynamically illuminate, dim, and shut off interior lights in response to changing light levels throughout the day. The simple, elegant structural connections are expressive and celebrated design elements.
The plan is a study of efficiency, flexibility, and functionality. Features such as express checkout stations, intuitive wayfinding, logical spatial relationships, and clear circulation paths maximize customer self-sufficiency. Both the main service desk and the staff work room have excellent visibility of public areas. Returned materials are streamlined from the public drops into the sorting area, facilitating quick reshelving. The program room, which can be used independently from the rest of the library, has its own prominent stone-faced entrance that complements the librarys main entrance.
The project began with a citywide library facilities master plan and a community library service needs assessment. The planning and design process included extensive community input and analysis, including public meetings, focus groups, questionnaires, interviews with educators and community leaders, and GIS mapping of library use patterns. Strong partnerships between the library and the school district helped the community secure 3.8 million in grants for the project.
The communitys hard work and the citys commitment to excellent library design and service has created a sparkling new focal point for the neighborhood.