Honoring Advances in Architecture: The AIA/ALA Buildings Awards

By Dreazen, Elizabeth | American Libraries, April 1999 | Go to article overview

Honoring Advances in Architecture: The AIA/ALA Buildings Awards


Dreazen, Elizabeth, American Libraries


WINNING BUILDINGS INCLUDE TWO RESTORATIONS AND FOUR NEW FACILITIES

The six winning buildings in the 19th Library Buildings Awards reaffirm the importance of the social role of the library' in the community. Ranging from a small neighborhood branch library to a historic treasure in the nation's capital, the award-winning projects demonstrate that library buildings of all sizes and budgets can be unique, functional, and beautiful.

The biennial awards for excellence in library architecture have been jointly sponsored by ALA's Library Administration and Management Association and the American Institute of Architects since 1963, and recognize distinguished accomplishment in library architecture by an American architect for any library without regard to location or library, type.

The 1999 jury, consisting of three librarians and three architects with extensive experience in library building, met in Philadelphia January 27-28 to consider the more than 135 entries in this year's competition. Chaired by Charles M. Davis, FAIA, of Esherick Homsey Dodge & Davis, San Francisco, the jury consisted of Anders Dahlgren, Library Planning Associates, Madison, Wisconsin; Rodney M. Hersberger, California State University/Bakersfield; Tom Howorth, AIA, Howorth & Associates, Oxford, Mississippi; Jo Ann Pinder, Gwinnett County Public Library, Lawrenceville, Georgia; and Warren Schwartz, FAIA, Schwartz/Silver Architects, Boston. The winners are:

The Deborah, Jonathan F.P., Samuel Priest, and Adam Raphael Rose Main Reading Room, Humanities and Social Sciences Library, New York Public Library, designed by Davis, Brody Bond, LLP, New York City; Jean Bowen, library director. The restoration of the 23,000-square-foot reading room, one of the largest column-free rooms in the nation, successfully integrates modern technologies to maximize efficiency of library service while maintaining the elegance and aesthetic integrity of the original 1911 building. Layers of dirt, water damage, and the wear and tear of nearly a century of heavy usage had left the space looking makeshift and tired, while at the same time the library faced an increasing demand for access to electronic information. The team of restoration architects modified the original 22-foot-long library tables to provide power and data at each reader station; upgraded existing mechanical systems to improve air distribution; modified original lamps and designed new fixtures in the spirit of the originals; integrated a new book delivery system into the existing stack structure; and designed new service desks and enclosures to match the original designs. Restoration of the ceiling murals, which had been so damaged over the years that it was difficult to discern the original character of the images, was conducted after a series of tests and mock-ups determined the final design and colors. Replicated murals were painted on canvas and applied to the ceiling in two sections. The awards jury, praised the architects, artisans, and contractors for overcoming a series of technical challenges and hurdles to create an overall effect grander than the original and lauded the decision to preserve this grand space for public use.

The Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., designed by Arthur Cotton Moore/Associates, Washington, D.C.; Librarian of Congress James Billington. The renovation of the historic 600,000-square-foot, 1897 structure restores a national treasure, preserving the grandeur of the past while making accommodation for the future. Working under intense public scrutiny, the architects' challenge was to modernize the building's fire protection, security, and HVAC systems; restore the beautiful public spaces to their former glory; equip the main reading room for 21st-century use; and devise a practical way to turn large two-story gallery spaces originally designed for collections storage into effective reading rooms with reference desks, collection materials, and staff areas. …

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