Libraries are one of the most important community resources our tax dollars pay for - and the best ones are warm and welcoming. Architecture firm Gould Evans transformed an uninviting 1970s Brutalist-style building in downtown Lawrence, Kansas into a gorgeous LEED-seeking library filled with natural light and open spaces. The revamped Lawrence Public Library also made sustainability a big focus by increasing energy efficiency through improved daylighting and thermal performance.
The transformation of the Lawrence Public Library has been a success. Within just a few months of the library’s reopening in 2014, user visits increased 55% over the previous year and attendees to the youth program shot up to 160%. The community was heavily involved in the redesign and their voices led to the addition of an enhanced children’s area, greater integration of technology, and the library’s lighter environmental footprint.
The library is clad in a high-performance terra-cotta rain screen that recalls downtown Lawrence’s historic redbrick architecture while improving insulation. The architects hid the previous concrete facade with clear-coated tongue-and-groove ash paneling that lend warmth to the building. Abundant glazing that wraps around the corners and on parts of the roof let in natural light from all sides.
To take advantage of that natural light, a continuous reading room wraps around the library’s interior floor plan with special children’s cubby areas, teen gaming zones, meeting spaces, and seats that face visitors in towards the central atrium that introduces a light well from the clerestory windows at the roof to the basement. Gathering zones and quiet reading areas are carefully separated with consideration for a diverse group of users, from the younger children to the teens to the elderly. In a nod to Lawrence’s active music culture, a Sound + Vision Room, a community-access recording studio with instruments, was added.
The new Lawrence Public Library is currently in the LEED certification process and boasts improved energy savings over its predecessor despite the library’s expansion in size by 50%. Major improvements include greater daylight harvesting, which lessened reliance on artificial lighting, improved thermal performance via the terra cotta rain screen, and the installation of solar shades to reduce glare.
Images via Gould Evans