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PLANNING & DESIGN
Case Study - Tompkins Library
"In order to eliminate the box look, we basically had to gut the entire building. There isn’t much of the old structure left." The architects cut into the exterior walls to create space for more windows. They removed the existing façade and canopy, and created a recessed area to provide shelter. And, they rounded off the corner of the building and converted it into the main entrance. As Brace notes, "The new building looks nothing like the old one. It’s a total transformation."
When it came to the interior, Steiner notes that she simply gave the architects a list of adjectives describing what the committee wanted in the new library. Three of the key adjectives were "warm, friendly and inviting." "The architects listened and they delivered," she states.
Diagonal Walkway Highlights Interior Design Approach
The QPK team began their design by creating a diagonal through the building. The primary element in the approach is a wide, colorful walkway that begins in the corner where the main entrance is located and continues to a reading room at the back of the building. The diagonal design helps eliminate the box look on the inside of the building. It also separates the children’s section, which is on one side of the walkway, and the quieter adult sections, which are on the other.
The walkway is named the "Avenue of the Friends" in honor of the "Friends of the Library," a group of private citizens that has been funding library projects for more than fifty years. Measuring 25 feet in width and nearly 200 feet in length, the Avenue is constructed of linoleum and features a swirl of color that winds its way from one end of the walkway to the other.
According to Crooke, linoleum was an important part of the overall design of the library. "Green building design was a concern of the construction committee," she states. "The committee requested that materials used in the building be designed to last 20 years, be manufactured from natural materials, and have no VOCs."
She also explains that two of the reasons the team wanted resilient flooring for the walkway were its ease of maintenance and its durability. "Because of all the walk-in traffic, we knew carpet would never hold up. It simply would not last the 20 years that the committee wanted. Linoleum was our choice from the beginning because it met all of the committee’s requirements. Plus, it was functional, economical and aesthetic."
Design Team Chose Trio of Warm, Earthy Colors
Crooke designed the walkway using three MARMORETTE colors. "When selecting colors, we knew we wanted to add warmth to the building. However, we also had to choose colors that everyone could live with for twenty years. We didn’t want colors that were too trendy." To meet these objectives, the team chose a combination of Chestnut Brown, Bamboo Tan, and Charcoal Gray.
"Brown and gold are the main colors," Crooke explains, "especially the brown because it complements the furniture." Charcoal is used in a narrow wave of color that meanders its way down the walkway. "The charcoal contrasts with the other colors and help impart a feeling of movement," Crooke notes.
The Avenue is not only filled with color, but also with light that streams in through a trio of large skylights that were installed over the walkway. The combination of natural light and numerous live plants and trees that are placed along the walkway give the Avenue a feeling of being outdoors. The Avenue also features a number of display cases containing a constantly changing assortment of exhibits from local artists, museums and organizations.
"The Avenue of the Friends essentially functions as the visual spine of the building," library director Steiner concludes. "Everything opens off it, either to the left or right. It also serves as a marker within the library in the sense that patrons can always get their bearing no matter where they are."
Favorable Reaction by Staff and Community Alike
Steiner notes that reaction to the new facility has been excellent. "We brought the staff to the site the day after we bought it and there was a feeling of disbelief, especially as they viewed the dirt, the fluorescent lights and especially the lunch counter. Most of them, as well as most of the community, just couldn’t conceive of a facility this beautiful and this functional in that space. But it was accomplished and accomplished well."
Designer Crooke concurs. "This was one of our more challenging projects, and also one of our most rewarding, especially in regard to the integration of all the interior elements with the architecture. Being there the day the new library opened and watching the reaction of the patrons as they walked in for the first time was a real thrill."
And, judging by the increase in both services and patrons, a lot more members of the Ithaca community are walking down the Avenue of the Friends then ever before.