Francis A. Gregory Library
Washington DC, USA
David Adjaye / Adjaye Associates Russell Crader/ Adjaye Associates
Hal Zaslow / Wiencek + Associates (Architect of Record)
George Williams, District of Columbia Public library
Edmund Sumner Jeffrey Sauers
Adjaye Associates won an open competition to design two new neighbourhood libraries for the District of Columbia. The brief called for the new buildings to be welcoming, accessible, comfortable places for the whole community. The entry point was required to invite and encourage the customer to stay and use the services. The facility design would meet the need outlined in the five Focus Areas of Library Activity envisioned by DCPL, as follows: service to children and teens; library as a community place; books and other library materials; technology; and adult literacy and learning. It was also required to be designed to meet the new customer service model, which included providing the customer with a logical, empowering floor plan; easy entry level access; and on-the-spot service provided by a capable staff. Resonating with the Idea Stores in London’s Tower Hamlets, the libraries challenged the traditional closed typology, introducing a social element that establishes a strong urban and cultural remit. Library as a community centre is the objective, while the library is a resource for reading printed manner, the evolving integration of the computer and data clouds has created a need for assemblies and single-user experiences to occur with flexibility of data needs. Spatial entities within the building were to be designed around flexibility for individual use or larger gatherings – and autonomous spaces within the open plan.
The building appears to flicker with the changing light, providing a lens through which to see into the park, while the exterior of the building both reflects and complements the dense composition of trees and the striking natural environment. Achieving LEED Gold, the design strategy is highly sustainable, with the building taking advantage of the natural vegetation, maximizing the winter sun exposure and controlling the summer sun with a large canopy, which welcomes the public inside, providing an effective transitional space from the street. The structural system is articulated in the reflective geometric façade that supports the curtain wall and roof, while the network of quadrilateral openings continue inside and frame the views of the park. A number of windows are deep-set to enable seating within the aperture, itself, encouraging visitors toward the perimeter of the building to reflect and enjoy the views. The library’s central circulation desk offers visual clarity and the possibility to comprehend the building’s programme through the suspended volumes above. Defined transparent openings highlight the 100 person meeting room, and the children’s area, complete with nooks for reading. There is an angled central circulation stair, which is a key visual component. Using the historical vernacular of wood panelled reading rooms, the interior of the reading space and stacks is lined with timber. Children and teen spaces are aligned with colours and varying sources of daylight and artificial lighting to assist with navigation at key moments.
Since 2006, the DC Public Library has been working to be a valued resource to residents of the District of Columbia. Central to this transformation was renovating or replacing neighborhood libraries throughout the District. This included David Adjaye's Francis Gregory library design. Serving the regional community within Washington, DC; the design of the library has taken into consideration the diverse needs of the nearby residents, creating clear-unobstructed circulation routes, covered entries, and supplemental mechanical vertical transportation. While governed by the prescriptive guidelines of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), and District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR) accessibility codes, the building design incorporates those, but strives to provide more, by enhancing the patron experience through a highly sensitive interaction with the library function. Located in the a traditionally under-served part of the District, the library opened in the Summer of 2012. Since it opened, it has become central to its community. Meeting rooms are in high demand. People come to spend an afternoon reading, using a computer or attending a book discussion. Children attend story times. During the summer, the library has become a location for free summer meals for children. The number of books, DVDs and other library materials checked out has increased. Iconic architecture has served two important functions. It invites the public in to see what the library offers. It also shows the community that their government values them enough to bring a world-class architect like David Adjaye to design to their neighborhood.