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Lawrence Public Library Renovation and Expansion in Kansas by Gould Evans
April 20th, 2016 by Sanjay Gangal
Article source: The American Institute of Architects (AIA)
The renovation and expansion of this 1970s concrete library has transformed it into a 21st century civic place: from book repository to multimedia community hub. The design solution wrapped all sides of the existing library with a continuous reading room, emphasizing places of spontaneous gathering, reflection and learning. The addition also provides a high-performance thermal envelope engineered to harvest daylight and reduce energy usage. Openings at each corner reveal unique public amenities, including children’s’ cubbies, teen gaming zones, meeting spaces and a coffee bar. Within a few months of reopening, user visits increased 55%, with youth program attendance up 160%.
To enhance and expand a 1970s library that was beginning to show its age in Lawrence, KS, the design team renovated the existing space and wrapped the existing concrete structure with a perimeter reading room and service areas and added a multi-function plaza park. A total of 20,000 square feet were added to better service the community.
Situated between the downtown area’s main street and a community pool, the original library was highly popular with parents and young children, but lacked daylight, performed poorly, and had murky wayfinding. The design process involved a study of trends, detailed analysis of community outreach opportunities and actively engaging the city of Lawrence. From the initial bond issue to the final design, the community was invited to voice their thoughts, which provided key design considerations. Those needs included the integration of sustainability, greater emphasis on technology, an enhanced children’s area, and a retooling of the library’s vehicular access in the form of a drive-up book drop and service window.
The new library’s youth areas are divided between two main zones: one for teens and one for younger children, both of which feature technology scaled for their users. The children’s area was doubled in size and includes study and play areas as well as computer zones, while the teen zone gives prominence to electronic media. Meeting and maker spaces are distributed throughout the library and key spaces such as the Sound+Vision Room provide participants Lawrence’s vibrant music scene access to a community recording studio.
Outside, the new plaza park adjacent to the building’s entry is tied to library and community functions. The space offers a stepped amphitheater, space for outdoor events, and support for a holiday-season ice skating rink. Additionally, the park offers informal outdoor reading space and serves as a connection to the community pool and the rest of downtown.
Sustainability was a key concern in the Lawrence community, and one of the goals of the project is to obtain LEED Silver certification. An extensive energy audit of the existing library was conducted and the prescriptive strategies that arose for the addition were all focused on increasing the building’s energy efficiency. The high-performing terra cotta rain screen that embraces the building was selected as a nod to Lawrence’s historic red brick downtown and provides a continuous unbroken insulation system that dramatically increases the building’s overall R-value. Daylight harvesting throughout the interior provides ample natural light with the added benefit of opening up each corner and offering a sense of community and connectivity. Through the implementation of these and other strategies, the team was able to increase its size by 50 percent while reducing its energy consumption.
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