AIA's Best Libraries 2007
Libraries as Cultural Symbol
Two of the libraries given AIA/ALA awards are as much about symbolism as they are about books. One of these is the William J. Clinton Presidential Center, in Little Rock, Arkansas, by Polshek Partnership Architects with associate architects Polk Stanley Rowland Curzon Porter Architects, Witsell Evans Rasco Architects and Planners, and Woods Carradine Architects.
In a monograph about his firm, James Stewart Polshek wrote: "The complex — the most interactive among the presidential libraries — is to be a major tourist destination for American and foreign visitors, a scholarly refuge for students of government, an incubator for public servants, a forum for the exchange of views by senior diplomats and government officials, and a repository for the 80 million documents that substantiate the legacy of the Clinton Presidency."
Principal design goals for the library were to create a memorable experience to visitors. In addition to a permanent exhibition hall, spaces include a temporary exhibit gallery, an education and media center, a Great Hall for symposia and receptions, a cafe, and a gift shop.
Clad in glass and metal, the building's cantilevered form is both a reference to Little Rock's "Six Bridges" and a metaphor for President Clinton's goal of creating a "bridge to the 21st century."
Of primary interest to the jury, they said, was the "...seamless integration of a museum with the rigorous requirements of a library. This allows a perimeter of glass walls to delight patrons with sunlight and views, presumably out into the future."
Similarly, the Shunde Library symbolically serves as the cultural center of Shunde, a fast-growing district of about 1 million in Foshan, China. The district's main library, by P&T Architects and Engineers, is combined with a performing arts center and two museums on its lower floors.
The jury observed: "This Chinese library achieves a subtle, poetic response to its Asian culture, reflecting a global architecture that, nonetheless, maintains a compelling sense of place. The jury was impressed not only by its community-centered offerings but also by the quality of its design and execution that equals the best of international architecture."
Like the Skillman and Fleet libraries, the award-winning project by CO Architects is a college library renovation. The architects also expanded the existing Santa Monica (California) College Library, doubling its size. The modernization centralized the electronic information and technology systems, incorporated a variety of study spaces accommodating different learning styles, and increased book stack capacity.
The jury credited the CO Architects with transforming "...an outdated library into a modern community landmark on a college campus. The receptive spaces, subtle introduction of daylight, artful use of materials, and beautifully crafted details do not diminish the old building but rather improve it."
A new, broad "front porch" for the library affords sitting and meeting spaces and unifies the existing building with the new addition. The porch has become a campus heart and gathering place. Like so many modern libraries, the building has become a place to commune as much as a place to read.
The 2007 AIA jury consisted of chair Jefferson B. Riley, FAIA, of Centerbrook Architects and Planners; Edward Dean, AIA of Chong Partners Architecture; Anne M. Larsen of Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners; Wendy Pautz, AIA of LMN Architects; Elizabeth A. Titus, Ph.D. of New Mexico State University Library; and Ken S. Weil of South Huntington Library.
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Santa Monica College Library, by CO Architects, is one of nine recipients of the 2007 AIA/ALA Library Building Award.
Photo: Tom Bonner
Santa Monica College Library.
Photo: Tom Bonner
Fleet Library for the Rhode Island School of Design by Office dA.
Photo: John Horner
Photo: Florian Holzherr
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