For centuries, libraries have served as archives for art and records, epicenters for learning, and eventually, repositories for books. As mainstays of community, how could anything replace them? Yet, beginning with public access to the internet 40 years ago, many began to speculate that brick and mortar libraries were at their end. However, there are indeed champions in the library story.
CPL, together with design-build partner, CT Darnell Construction, and library specialists, 720Design, recently provided leadership in planning, design, engineering and construction to help write the next chapter for six aging libraries in Fulton County, GA.
The CPL / 720Design team along with CT Darnell Construction was the unanimous choice for the Atlanta/Fulton County Library System’s (AFCLS) $11 million, six library design-build program. Outside of routine maintenance, none of the libraries had seen improvements since their decades-old original construction. The time to upgrade and enhance these community assets had never been more apparent.
Following initial team engagement meetings led by 720 Design, CPL developed six unique solutions, each one seeking a sustainability design minimum certification of Silver, using the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Rating System. The solutions also included community-inspired design themes like bohemian arts and culture, collegiate/Ivy League, local issues, and even a “Library in the Park.”
Strategic interior design enhancements included the use of barn doors in place of traditional doors to easily expand program space; the replacement of large service desks with smaller, service kiosks to open floor plans and promote patron/staff interaction; and the creation of larger community spaces with movable furniture, Wi-Fi touch-down points and study pods. In some of the libraries, staff was even relocated to allow for more natural light in high traffic common areas.
In addition to individual customizations for each library, all facilities received optimized seating with dedicated use areas for adults, teens and children; mechanical, electrical, plumbing and technology system upgrades; ADA accessibility and compliance upgrades; significant site improvements with native landscaping; and brighter finishes and furnishings to add character and elevate the overall look and feel.
Library specialist and founder of 720Design, Maureen Arndt, AIA, IIDA, said, “Each design concept was highly specialized, responding to community culture, requests, and consensus. Information gathered was run through the lens of budget and facility assessment requirements and then synthesized with high design to transform the libraries into hubs of customizable, activity generating, educational community spaces.”
With sustainability goals in mind, CPL’s in-house team of engineers played a key role in providing critical building system changes such as the new roof-mounted mechanical units at the Cleveland Avenue Library branch. They also performed a comprehensive structural evaluation to determine if a large solar array installation, slated to supply 40% of the buildings power, could be supported.
All upgraded building systems met the County’s environmentally conscious initiatives and even contributed to reaching their sustainability goals. In the end, all six libraries met or exceeded the desired LEED certification, with the Cleveland Avenue Library achieving LEED Platinum certification—the only LEED Platinum library in the state of Georgia.
CPL Principal Architect, K. Scott Gordon, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, and Project Manager, Kirk Edwards, AIA, both surmised, “The 21st century iteration of the library is less about being a repository and more about space: space for social interaction, education, and community connections. Through listening to the communities, the CPL team captured and delivered precisely what these aging branches needed to reenergize and revive each unique community they serve. We are privileged to use our talents as planners, architects, and engineers to serve and witness six unique visions take flight. We are grateful to the ACFLS and the Fulton County Board of Commissioners for the opportunity.”
Modern libraries offer much more than a digital experience ever can. Their physicality nurtures communities through vital connection and endless learning. In renovating the AFCLS libraries, the CPL / 720 Design team together with CT Darnell Construction emerged as champions by giving six aging, out-of-date community libraries new life and a hopeful future that’s written to sustain each unique community for years to come.
CPL provided design leadership throughout project planning and construction with design/build partner, CT Darnell Construction, managing the budget and construction delivery. 720Design led interior design efforts on all six projects.