Slover Library in Norfolk, Virginia—designed by Newman Architects of New Haven, CT—was named Project of the Year by the American Public Works Association this week. The building, more than six years in the planning, is now open to the public. This 138,000-square-foot building houses the main branch of the Norfolk public library system. The project was a collaboration between public and private organizations, and blends old and new in historic downtown Norfolk.
The design proffered by Newman Architects combines three generations of architecture into one incredible public building. The 115-year-old core, the Seaboard building, was originally a customs house before becoming Norfolk’s main library in 2009. Norfolk Mayor Paul D. Fraim is delighted with the project. “Not only will Slover engage and delight the public,” he said, “but it represents Norfolk’s history as well as its future.”
The design called for the addition of a seven-story glass-walled wing, as well as the renovation of an adjacent commercial building. Inside the building, a central court is surrounded by an arcade as well as a ring of enclosed rooms. The layout of the structure is mirrored in the design of the glass addition.
The relationship between old and new is clear: the solidity of the restored masonry Seaboard juxtaposed against a transparent and inviting addition. Despite the differences in their style and appearance, the spaces are linked through the three-story atrium at the building’s center. In essence, each aspect of the building is made an equal partner in the creation of a new public space where education and enlightenment can be fostered.
Images via Peter Aaron