Last night at Modern STL‘s program “Preserving Historic Libraries: Lessons for the Lewis and Clark Branch“, we unveiled the following concept for a “new” Lewis and Clark Branch Library — one that balances the beauty of Frederick Dunn’s 1963 building with the needs of a 21st century library system.
The following concept was developed by architects Neil Chace, Jeremy Clagett and Jon Hagar for Modern STL. These are their words.
The Lewis and Clark Branch Library, built in 1963 and designed by renowned architect Frederick Dunn, is historic. Its significance is not only rooted in St. Louis, but also the early history of our nation as a whole. To keep, renovate, and reuse the existing building, while adding a brand new building component not only preserves a historic building, it guarantees current and future generations a community center that is modern, technologically advanced, rich in local and national history, and as a whole facility, new.
The existing 16,000 square foot structure is 50 years old and is currently fully functioning as a library. There have been significant maintenance upgrades over the years, specifically HVAC (2007) and roof (2004) as well as cosmetic remodels that have helped keep the library relevant. These types of maintenance items are necessary of any building, whether it was built 5, 30, 50, or 100 years ago. The existing structure is post and beam, with two large bays divided by a center row of columns. This open, column-free floor plan allows for nearly infinite interior flexibility, both now and in the future, to satisfy the programmatic needs of the library.
Placing a new 3,500 square foot structure to the North of the existing building entry that is set back from the existing building’s East façade creates a new, elegant entry experience that begins upon entering the site. The newly created exterior space between the existing building and the new addition welcomes guests, leading to the new entry lobby. From this point, guests can circulate to the south into the renovated existing space, or turn and head north into the addition. This new addition would make a great new Children’s area, or a new community tech center, or a great number of spaces the community needs.
Existing layout concerns could easily be solved with a full programming effort between the design team and the end user
The building addition could be designed in such a way to allow the existing building’s beautiful stained glass corner and straightforward modern architectural virtues to be maintained, while at the same strengthening the overall facility’s experience with new programmatic elements. Similar qualities of natural light, large column-free open spaces, natural materials, and a new direct access to outdoor spaces should be the design focus. Site circulation, both pedestrian and vehicular, should be enhanced with landscaped paths.
This exercise shows that many unexplored options exist to renovate and re-use the existing historic structure working in accordance with a new structure on the existing site to create a state of the art library experience for this community.