Innovative, Sustainable Design Earns Six Libraries 2019 AIA/ALA Building Awards

On April 4 the American Institute of Architects (AIA), in partnership with the American Library Association (ALA), announced the winners of the 2019 AIA/ALA Library Building Awards, spotlighting public and academic library construction, renovation, and restoration projects completed no earlier than 2014. The six featured libraries range from Toronto to Kentucky, from the 22,000 square foot Half Moon Bay Library in California’s San Mateo County to the Calgary Public Library’s 240,000 square foot Central Library.

On April 4 the American Institute of Architects (AIA), in partnership with the American Library Association (ALA), announced the winners of the 2019 AIA/ALA Library Building Awards, spotlighting public and academic library construction, renovation, and restoration projects completed no earlier than 2014. The six featured libraries range from Toronto to Kentucky, from the 22,000 square foot Half Moon Bay Library in California’s San Mateo County to the Calgary Public Library’s 240,000 square foot Central Library.

The jury reviewed more than 60 submittals, said chair Charles Higueras, program manager at the City and County of San Francisco Department of Public Works. Winning entries focused strongly on design that fulfilled the libraries’ programmatic intent, while accommodating a range of urban and suburban factors and expressing a vision for each library’s future. The jurors were pleased to see the amount of quality work being built, he said—which made choosing difficult.

The top projects, Higueras told LJ, evidenced not only exceptionally attractive and innovative design but also the ways in which library services are evolving. “A new era of service is emerging and expressing itself in new projects,” he noted, and the strongest concepts demonstrated a design approach to user experience with clear input from the library and community. “The best architecture expressed that deep dive necessary for people to experience [the library] as positive,” Higueras said. “How easy is it for users to navigate? How well did the architect do? Sometimes the most complex solutions are the most simple.”

Sustainability was emphasized as an important component for submissions, and Higueras was pleased to see the innovative approaches represented. A building with features that are both good-looking and environmentally conscious can help educate people on responsible design, he noted; “Folks can apply that to other solutions in their lives.”

Higueras added, “As architects, we want a building that’s beautiful.” But with libraries, “people look to the buildings in which they can see themselves.” The following six winners do just that.

 

Albion Public Library
Albion Public Library, Toronto
Photo by Doublespace Photography

Albion Public Library, Toronto, ON

The newest branch of the Toronto Public Library (TPL) offers bursts of color throughout, starting with terra cotta strips of purple, lime green, gray, and orange around the exterior. The well-used library, located in a suburb northwest of Toronto, serves a mixed, low-income community with a large immigrant population. “It’s a community hub, a hybrid public platform,” Andrew Frontini, principal at architect Perkins + Will, told The Toronto Star. “It functions as a social welcome mat in a neighborhood of newcomers.” Rather than close the busy older structure it replaced during construction, the Albion Public Library was built in an adjacent unused parking lot; once the new facility was completed, the former library site was developed into a multi-use urban plaza.

To counter an excess of concrete in the six-lane highway and large shopping mall nearby, the cheerful site features plantings and a community garden. The light-filled interior mixes modern styles in bright pastels, cool grays, and blond wood, with an undulating green roof sloping to three light-filled courtyards. A central atrium brings in still more light. Spaces include community rooms of various sizes, individual study and work rooms, a large children’s area and computer center, and a digital innovation and Maker space.

 

Barnard College Milstein Center
The Milstein Center, Barnard College, NY
Photo by Magda Biernat

Barnard College—The Milstein Center, New York, NY

Barnard’s new Milstein Center (officially the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Center for Teaching and Learning), designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, is a hub for students, faculty, and Barnard’s upper Manhattan community. Designed for flexibility, both in terms of space and technology, the 128,000 square foot building gives prominence to archives and core collections as well as providing dedicated working space for design, digital humanities, media, movement, empirical reasoning, and pedagogy; the Vagelos Computational Science Center, the Barnard Center for Research on Women, the Athena Center for Leadership Studies, and administrative offices.

The center overlooks the Barnard campus lawn, tying together the surrounding buildings and walkways. Its five stories rise through a series of terraces, which encourage outdoor study and help reduce the heat island effect, and a cantilevered faculty lounge offers views of the Hudson River. It boasts green roofs and natural lighting, and is expected to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) v3 Silver Certification. “We’ve won the academic lottery with the Milstein Center,” said Linda Bell, Barnard provost and dean of the faculty, at the October 3, 2018 grand opening.

 

Calgary Central Library
Calgary Central Library, AB
Photo by Michael Grimm

Calgary’s New Central Library, AB

With its striking curtain wall of geometric panels and triple-glazed windows scattered across the entire façade of the building, the Calgary Public Library’s (CPL) new Central Library, designed by Snøhetta and Canada-based DIALOG, has quickly become a centerpiece. The 240,000 square foot building literally bridges two neighborhoods, accommodating the city’s Light Rail transit line beneath its main floor, with terraced slopes rising up around it. Multipurpose rooms ring the building at street level, with public spaces on the ground floor and quieter areas above. A children’s library can be found on the mezzanine.

The same visual vocabulary demonstrated at the building’s exterior continues inside, with white poured concrete broken up by the playful, natural curves of wood stairs, millwork, and furnishings. The craftmanship of the simple materials echoes throughout the building, beginning with the large archway that references regional Chinook cloud arches. Made from planks of western red cedar from British Columbia, the library is one of the world’s largest freeform timber shells. An abundance of light is provided by a large oculus skylight; “When you stand [in the gallery] and look up, you see the natural light, the beautiful millwork framing it,” noted CPL director of service delivery Sarah Meilleur. “It changes the feeling of the space minute by minute, hour by hour.” The library is targeting LEED Canada Gold certification.

 

Colorado College Tutt Library
Colorado College Tutt Library
Photo by Steve Lerum

Colorado College Tutt Library Expansion and Transformation, Colorado Springs

When Colorado College (CC) committed to becoming entirely carbon-neutral ten years ago, that decision inspired every aspect of the Charles L. Tutt Library’s renovation. The newly redesigned library achieved net-zero energy, producing as much energy as it consumes, thanks to coordinated systems that include a geothermal energy field, a variable refrigerant flow system, a green roof, and a 115 kilowatt rooftop solar array (augmented by another 400 kilowatt off-site array nearby). Sensor-driven LED lighting supplements an abundance of natural light, and a brightly patterned rain screen around the building’s perimeter conserves or dissipates heat as needed. “This is a leading-edge building that sets the stage for not only how other campuses and other places can do this but also for our campus,” CC sustainability director Ian Johnson told LJ.

Architects Pfeiffer Partners added 25,000 square feet to the library’s footprint, a 35 percent increase in area, and doubled its seating capacity. New dedicated interior spaces support digital scholarship, including a GIS lab and data visualization suite. Throughout the building, library services combine with instructional spaces that can be used for group study after hours. To support the college’s Block Plan course schedule, where students focus intensively on one subject for three weeks at a time, the collection is housed on site, in new compact shelving, for quick access, with special collections kept in a custom-designed vault. A 1980s addition to the building was demolished to provide room for a courtyard and three new exterior spaces, and large windows offer a view of nearby Pikes Peak.

 

Louisville Free Public Library
Louisville Free Public Library's South Central Regional Library, KY
Photo by Brandon Stengel

Louisville Free Public Library, South Central Regional Library, KY

Many of the design considerations for the newest member of the Louisville Free Public Library (LFPL) system, featured in LJ’s 2018 Year in Architecture, derived from its location on an acre of 100-year-old woodland. MSR Design and JRA Architects, working in partnership alongside landscape architects MKSK Studios, focused on sustainable development and conserving the forest and tree canopy by using the smallest possible footprint for the 40,000 square foot facility. Over one third of the site was left untouched, and any specimen trees that had to be sacrificed for construction were milled into lumber that was then used inside the building. The library, certified LEED-NC v.3 Gold, features geothermal heating, daylight-harvesting interior lighting, and a green roof to help reduce storm water discharge. The building’s form was skewed to follow the path of the sun, allowing extensive natural light in through clerestory and long expanses of windows, providing shade in the summer and reflected light in winter. Street-facing façades are surfaced in reflective stainless steel, while the dark stucco–clad forest façades fade into the forest.

By consolidating staff spaces, public and flexible areas were optimized, and rather than providing structural support through a series of columns, a 16-foot-tall truss spanning 200 feet enables an open floor plan. A moveable wall system allows the space to open up further when meeting and program rooms are not in use. Along with two other recent LFPL building projects, the new library “illustrate[s] the strength of a cohesive design team and strategy, one that involved the library, architect, and landscape architect working together,” said MKSK principal Andy Knight in a news release. “The result is more than site and structure, but a community resource both physically and experientially.”

 

Half Moon Bay Library
Half Moon Bay Library, CA
Photo by Anthony Lindsey Photography

Half Moon Bay Library, CA

Located along the California coast in San Mateo County, the Half Moon Bay Library is the newest of the San Mateo County Library system’s 12 facilities. Noll & Tam Architects used simple, naturally weathering materials in a coastal palette including wood, concrete, Cor-Ten steel, copper, zinc, and rough stone to contribute to a sophisticated design that fits in with the neighborhood. Blinds that automatically open and close depending on temperature and time of day, solar panels on the roof, and radiant floor heating complete the equation to make the library the county’s first net-zero energy building. The two-floor, 22,000 square foot library is three times the size of its predecessor and features flexible programming spaces, an acoustically separate area for teens, outdoor reading plazas, and a Maker space that includes sewing, embroidery, and button-making machines, a 3-D printer, robots, and a virtual reality system. Thanks to the extensive countywide library system, the library was able to increase space for programming needs without sacrificing access to materials for its community, which comprises many immigrant and non–English speaking residents as well as seasonal agricultural workers. More than 20 desktop computers can be found throughout the library, and laptops and GoPro cameras are available for checkout.

The project involved major community support, and the library team initiated a community engagement process at the beginning of the planning process. All design phases, including ongoing revisions, were made available to stakeholders throughout. “We see this as a transformative facility,” deputy city manager Matthew Chidester told the San Mateo Daily Journal. “It transforms the community around it and the people who use it.”

Author Image
Lisa Peet

Lisa Peet is Associate Editor, News for Library Journal.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


RELATED 

TOP STORIES

LIBRARY EDUCATION

Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones

COMMUNITY FORM

Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones

COLLECTION DEVELOPMENT

Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones

Get connected. Join our global community of more than 200,000 librarians and educators.