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Hennepin County Walker Library in Minneapolis, Minnesota by VJAA
April 20th, 2016 by Sanjay Gangal
Article source: The American Institute of Architects (AIA)
Facing challenges in the form of a modest post-recession budget, the need for a quiet library sited on a bustling urban intersection, and distinct design that needed to remain sensitive to the character of Minneapolis’ Uptown neighborhood, the new Walker Library serves as a living room for a diverse, arts-oriented neighborhood. The 30,000-square-foot building lies across the street from the original Beaux Arts building that housed the library until 1981, when a gloomy, leaking subterranean library that was anything but a civic asset replaced it.
Built directly on top of the underground library, the new building is situated on the corner of Hennepin and Lagoon avenues and adjacent to the Midtown Greenway bike trail, the library sits at the heart of numerous transportation networks while offering 15,000-square-feet of underground parking.
The team designed the stainless steel and glass-clad building to reflect the identity of Minneapolis’ civic buildings in its simple mass while re-establishing the façade that gives Hennepin Avenue its distinctive charm. Since the new library nearly fills the site, the facades are sculpted to respond to the surrounding context. The street-level glass façade is angled to widen the sidewalk and aid in the constant flow of pedestrians, bikes, and cars, while the upper section is folded inward to provide views of the old library building and the marquee of the historic Uptown Theater.
While the library’s main program continues to be focused on books, it has broadened its mission to serve the neighborhood as a service center and community hub. Inside, the library juggles the community’s need for openness with patrons’ need for quiet and security. A slightly elevated double height reading room overlooks the street and acoustical decking, wall panels, and sound insulating glass help eliminate unwanted noise. The room’s open plan allows for easy reconfiguration to address future uses, while overhead, nine rooftop light monitors track the location of the sun and further animate the space by changing their intensity and shifting their color from yellow to blue based on the sun’s orientation.
The team employed sustainable strategies that create a comfortable environment within the library while emphasizing daylighting and an independent consultant determined at the completion of the construction documents that the building’s performance exceeds baseline levels by 49 percent. The project combines a highly insulated envelope with high efficient heating and cooling that utilizes under-floor air distribution and double height volume to increase ventilation efficiency and improve air quality. With Minnesota’s typical annual rainfall of 32 inches in mind, the team implemented roof ponding and a below-grade cistern to aid in storm water management.