Bensonwood Design team member Tim Olson took Third Place in the AIA Vermont 2014 Emerging Professionals Network Design Competition: “Engaging the Public Library.”
The Emerging Professionals Network of Vermont is a component of AIA Vermont, and serves local emerging professionals by representation on the AIAVT Board of Directors, while in turn educating members about important developments within the design and construction industry. The EPN also serves a larger purpose by organizing events and projects that bring together students, young designers and experienced architects, in order to promote architecture and good design in the community.
Contrary to popular belief, public libraries are not a declining institution. Over the past 12 years (a period experiencing a dramatic expansion of the internet as well as a shrinking of public funding) yearly visits, program attendance and total income for Vermont public libraries have increased by more than 50%. Therefore, the issue is not making libraries relevant again, but strengthening the relevance of libraries for the future.
The competition asked emerging architectural professionals from around New England to design an architectural intervention that reinforces and expands the relevance of the public library.
Competitors specifically addressed:
– How can architectural interventions catalyze the exchange of ideas in a library and its community?
– What programs and amenities can attract new user groups while maintaining existing patrons?
– How is a public library a distinct form of access for information, knowledge and discussion?
– What is the contemporary function, role and identity of the New England public library?
Entries came in from emerging professionals in Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island, with designs in the form of additions, renovations, and satellite structures under 2,000 square feet. Winners were selected by a jury of architects, librarians and community members who considered graphic clarity, originality and cohesiveness of concept.
Tim’s entry, The Common Core, proposed that libraries provide an essential and rare type of civic space where populations can collect and engage in the social construction of community through the cohabitation of a shared resource.
Olson imagined a Public Library with a central space at its core that could be accessed and utilized by a larger cross section of the population. This space could be activated both during normal library hours for children’s programs, reading rooms and study space. In the after hours, or for special events the space could transform into a lounge, community living room, or an ad-hoc movie theater—a space designed to host book openings, film screenings, public lectures and art events. The Common Core offers the insertion of a “stage” and adjoining “fly loft” to make this diversity of programs possible.
The Common Core offers the insertion of a “stage” and adjoining “fly loft” to make this diversity of programs possible. By radically compacting furnishings into a vertical space, an expansion in the programmatic potentials can be accomplished while maintaining the urban location, historic facade and footprint of the New England Public Library.