Libraries = Cultural Icons: 2006 Showcase of New and Renovated Facilities

Article excerpt

From tiny neighborhood branch to massive urban facility, all libraries aim to preserve their community's culture in some way--not only through their collections, but in the buildings themselves, which stand as icons symbolizing the "Culture Keepers" role--to borrow a theme from the Black Caucus of ALA--they were designed to play.

As surviving Carnegie libraries celebrate a century of architectural and social history (see p. 58-62), new facilities also reflect the surrounding landscape and embody the hopes and dreams their planners have for future success. More than just a sign of the latest trends in building design, library construction projects reveal the changing needs and wants of the communities, schools, and institutions that support them.

From dozens of recently completed projects, American Libraries' Facilities Showcase spotlights a selection of 32 buildings where American culture is not only kept, but kept alive.

Bronx Library Center

New York City

DATTNER ARCHITECTS

WWW.DATTNER.COM

Size: 78,000 sq. ft.

Cost: $50 million

In the heart of a busy commercial district, New York Public Library's Bronx Library Center is a state-of-the-art, five-story facility tailored to the needs of the diverse community it serves. Highlights include a Latino and Puerto Rican Cultural Center as well as the large-scale work Portrait of a Young Reader--an abstract DNA portrait rendered in steel and glass--by Inigo Manglano-Ovalle.

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PHOTOS BY JEFF GOLDBERG/ESTO

67th Street Branch

New York City

HELPERN ARCHITECTS

WWW.HELPERN.COM

Size: 14,000 sq. ft.

Cost: $3 million

A complete renovation of a Carnegie built in 1905, New York Public Library's 67th Street branch received wireless internet access; upgraded heating, cooling, and electrical systems; new restrooms, staff work areas, and administrative offices; and improvements to make the facility ADA-compliant. The project also included restoration of numerous details, including original wood, decorative metalwork, and mosaic tile floors.

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PHOTOS BY DON POLLARD

Westwood Branch

Los Angeles

STEVEN EHRLICH ARCHITECTS

WWW.S-EHRLICH.COM

Size: 12,500 sq. ft.

Cost: $6.4 million

Visitors to Los Angeles Public Library's Westwood branch pass through a two-story entry lobby to reach the second-floor reading room, which offers views of the lush green space next door through a wall of expansive windows. Other features include subterranean parking, a first-floor meeting room, and numerous energy-efficient technologies.

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PHOTOS BY TOM BONNER

Lakes Regional Library

Fort Myers, Florida

BSSW ARCHITECTS

WWW.BSSWARCHITECTS.COM

Size: 40,000 sq. ft.

Cost: $7.7 million

Innovative, fun, and spacious were the keywords behind the design of Lee County Library System's new regional library, built to replace a crowded 7,000-square-foot branch that had become the second-busiest in the system. Highlights include numerous windows and glass walls to complement an open layout, and a cheery primary-color-themed children's space.

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PHOTOS COURTESY OF LEE COUNTY LIBRARY SYSTEM

Jackson County Public Library

Seymour, Indiana

K.R. MONTGOMERY

WWW.KRMONTGOMERY.COM

Size: 36,492 sq. ft.

Cost: $2.4 million

Bringing a 100-year-old Carnegie into the 21st century, the expansion of the Jackson County library added a new computer lab, local history room, and drive-up service window. One of the building's greatest needs is filled by a new children's area that includes a dedicated program room, expanded collection space, and an interactive tree featuring the local high school's owl mascot. …