Overview: Flexible Flow | Year in Architecture 2022

Furniture echoes architectural elements; places of refuge get playful, and more of the year’s top library design trends.

SOMETHING TO SEE Flexible furnishings that echo architectural details, places of refuge, outdoor rooms, and color schemes that let nature take the spotlight top the trends in this year’s new academic and public library buildings. Photos (top to bottom): 1. Desert Hot Springs Library, CA. CREDITS Cannon Design, architect; photo ©2021 Stephen Whalen Photography. 2. Atlanta Central Library, GA. CREDITS Cooper Carry; Moody Nolan, architects; photo ©2021 Jonathan Hillyer. 3. Peoria Main Library, AZ. CREDITS DFDG Architecture, architect; photo ©2022 Landscape Structures Inc. 4. Linda Sokol Francis Brookfield Library, Brookfield, IL. CREDITS Product Architecture + Design, architect; Product Architecture + Design, photo. 5. Karl Road Branch, Columbus Metropolitan Library, OH. CREDITS Moody Nolan, architect; photo courtesy Columbus Metropolitan Library. . 6. Shaker Heights Public Library, OH. CREDITS Bialosky Cleveland, architect; photo ©2021 Christian Phillips Photography.

Furniture echoes architectural elements; places of refuge get playful, and more of the year’s top library design trends

It’s all about flow. Rooms within rooms, nooks, delightful retreats for all ages are designed to seamlessly transition spaces from one function to another in this year’s round up of library renovations and new buildings. While we still see the subdued natural color palettes of last year’s trendsetters, color continues to play a meaningful role in these libraries. Color offers connection to the surrounding landscape, signals a meaningful place to rest or congregate, or invites the community into the buildings. 2022’s libraries are joyful celebrations of their communities, reflecting whimsy and delight. 


Furniture selections across these libraries offer community members plenty of choice. Seating is available in soft, hard, task, and communal options. Tables are large and small. Rather than using different styles or designers for each section of the library, furniture pieces have the same underlying structure but are finished in a variety of fabric choices or other options, providing a cohesive visual and sensory experience, and facilitating the flow of one space into the next. At the Salem Public Library, OR, for example, warm wood-wrapped chairs offer functional seating in both family areas and in sun-filled reading nooks, finished with different colors in each space. In the renovated David Mullins Library, AR, design firm Perry Dean Rogers repeats furniture options that offer cohesion across large floor plates, setting up spaces for students to lounge, focus, and engage in solo or group work.



Shelving has become much more responsive and playful in this year’s libraries, especially in children’s areas. Incorporating lighting and graphic or highly finished end caps, these shelves are configured in different heights to offer varying experiences. Some, like the Roslindale Branch of the Boston Public Library even offer a labyrinth-like experience for community members to wander through. At the newly built 22,000 square foot Norcross Library, GA, custom display shelves are mounted into a brick wall, celebrating new local newspapers and offering integrated seating. At the North Branch of the Clinton Macomb Public Library, MI, curved custom shelving offers seating and materials mimic the oculus at the center of the room. These shelves are not simply in the space but also of the space.



While previous designs have incorporated rooms within rooms, nooks, or small play areas, 2022’s libraries feature bold, whimsical, and delightful spaces that are sure to ignite the imaginations of community members. At the Adams St. Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, a bold and futuristic cave offers a magenta-hued children’s area tucked into the floor. At the Conyers-Rockdale Library System in Georgia, a variety of different spaces and experiences are tucked together to offer a greenscreen performance space, a lounge area, computer stations, and a brainstorming area. Designed by Morris Berg, the Parr Student Success Center and Hagemeyer Library at Central Piedmont Community College, NC, features a statement staircase leading to breakout areas with technology, comfortable seating, and large poufs for collaborating. 



These libraries offer their communities grand entrances by creating inspiring, inviting, and transparent lobbies and entryways. At the fully accessible Library of Accessible Media for Pennsylvanians (LAMP), PA, a warm red anchors the entrance pillars, offset by bright LED lighting. Housed in a former Studebaker Factory by GBBN, the same hue is carried into the main lobby of the space, visible from the outside through large windows with the word “LIBRARY” emblazoned on the wall in led lighted braille letters. 


At the Salem Public Library, OR, glass or partial walls offer visibility between the second and first floors. Community members can stay visually connected across floors while occupying age- or activity-appropriate spaces. At the Chalmers Library at Kenyon College, OH, wood slats clad the interior of a glassed-in courtyard that is anchored by balconies within the space, leading to an urban city-like feel. 



Some illustrate how renovated historic buildings can retain traditional facades while the interior can fully be modernized and contemporary. For example, the addition to the Concord Free Public Library, MA retains the residential vernacular design of the original building but offers a rich, warm wood interior throughout. At the Flint Public Library, MI, the interior offers glass and soft hued textures and metals. While the exterior envelope didn’t change substantially, new glass windows, thoughtful curtain enclosures, and the addition of a comfortable raised greenspace at the entrance invite the city’s residents to enjoy the collection and spaces.

These libraries combine design elements that connect communities, including the visual transparency between and across floors, with intimate and inspiring spaces for people to connect, learn together, explore, or create. Organic and dynamic shapes emerge out of color and pattern but also in configuration, with creative shelving, a variety of spaces and sizes, and anchored color. Our 2022 libraries bring joy into their communities alongside programming, resources, spaces in which to create and collaborate.   

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