In 2010, Adjaye Associates won a competition to design two new neighborhood libraries for Washington, DC. Both of the new libraries are energy efficient, and they both respond to the natural landscape and surroundings. The entrance to the library is located beneath the elevated reading rooms, creating a sheltered outdoor space for bike parking. Inside, the library’s central stacks and main reading room are located in the main volume, while other different reading rooms geared towards children and teens are located on separate volumes.
Because most of the public space in the library is lifted above street level, it provides visitors with excellent views of the surrounding neighborhood. “Communities need empowering buildings – and this neighbourhood library is all about the creation of a strong beacon for its community,” explained Adjaye. “The primary act of public architecture is to create spaces that are socially edifying and socially liberating – using design excellence as a social force that makes good. This is at the heart of my work, so it is very exciting to see this building welcome its community through its doors.”
The geometric forms all feature vertical timber fins on the exterior, which creates a visual link between the different shapes. A large, green-tinted light well cuts through the middle of the Bellevue Library, bringing natural light to the center of the building. Other rooms are similarly brightly colored; the stairways are a striking yellow, and the reading rooms range from dark red to blue. In addition to the natural daylighting, the building features energy-efficient lighting, both inside and out.