Page N1.1 . 07 May 2003                     
ArchitectureWeek - News Department
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AIA/ALA Library Building Awards 2003

by ArchitectureWeek

The American Library Association and the American Institute of Architects have selected the recipients of the 2003 AIA/ALA Library Building Awards. The seven projects exemplify excellence in the design of literary settings from the renovation of a historic reading room to a temporary facility with a tropical flair.

The Boston firm Kennedy & Violich Architecture Ltd. had a "rather banal 1960s building" to work with when renovating the Shady Hill School Library. They turned it into a daylight-filled open space where educational technology coexists with an old-fashioned love of reading. A raised-floor plenum accommodates the infrastructure that supports power and data networks.

The raised floor also helps define the project's "digital platform," a ramped loft space whose edges combine workstations and adjustable bookshelves. The digital platform is clad with durable recycled paper and wood products. The architects say: "These affordable materials are reminders of the natural origins of paper and the relationships between books and technology."

The restoration of the University of Washington's Suzzallo Library complex was driven by the need for seismic and accessibility upgrades to the 1925, 1935, and 1965 buildings. The Seattle firms Mahlum Architects and Cardwell Architects replaced the mechanical, electrical, and conveyance systems and upgraded the communications system.

Much of the Suzzallo interior was demolished to make way for new structural elements, though the architects carefully preserved historic features in key spaces. The result incorporates a visible seismic infrastructure with shapes that reflect the traditional Gothic tracery. The jury notes: "This renovation demonstrates that the owners respect this magnificent building so much that they wish to extend its life for generations to come."

Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects designed the award-winning Lee B. Philmon Branch Library, in Riverdale, Georgia. "Corralled by sprawling suburbia," says the architect, "the little library asserts itself with quietude within a rapidly changing landscape." Its simple geometries and subtle coloring contrast with neighboring chain stores and neon signs.

The jury appreciated the branch library's consistency in design elements, materials, and detailing. They say: "The architects responded to [budget] challenges with a unique, attractive building that is appropriate to its context. The striking design, outdoor reading garden, and pleasant landscaping reinforce each other to create a building that attracts positive attention and invites one inside."

While awaiting construction of the new Seattle Public Library by Rem Koolhas, the Seattle firm LMN Architects has produced a light-hearted, colorful, temporary facility to house the institution's books and services. The jury believes the interim space "will leave a positive impression long after it is demolished as, sadly, it will be. Intense tropical colors contrast with the exposed structure and mechanical systems, reinforcing what the architects term their "camping metaphor."

The LMN architects say: "Living in the woods with few amenities may not be ideal over the long haul, but for a short, finite period, it can be fun and exciting, much like this library." The three-level building will return to its original museum function when the permanent library is complete.

Other award recipients are the Jefferson Library at Monticello by Hartman-Cox Architects; the South Court of the New York Public Library by Davis Brody Bond, LLP; and the Hockaday School Upper and Lower School Library by Overland Partners Architects.

The 2003 jury included both architects and librarians: Henry Myerberg, FAIA, Mary Werner DeNadai, AIA, David Milling, AIA, Kay Johnson, Barbara Norland, and Rich Rosenthal.

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The Shady Hill School Library by Kennedy & Violich Architecture Ltd. features a "digital platform" to integrate a technical infrastructure with a traditional library.
Photo: Bruce T. Martin & Photography

ArchWeek Image

The award-winning restoration of the University of Washington's Suzzallo Library was designed by Seattle firms Mahlum Architects and Cardwell Architects.
Photo: Benjamin Benschneider

ArchWeek Image

The Lee B. Philmon Branch Library in Riverdale, Georgia designed by Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects.
Photo:Timothy Hursley, The Arkansas Office

ArchWeek Image

LMN Architects' colorful temporary facility house for the Seattle Public Library portrays a tropical "camping metaphor."
Photo:Fred Housel


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