Arabian Library / richärd+bauer

© Bill Timmerman

The building is a remembrance of the desert slot canyons of northern Arizona and monument valley, capturing the powerful and unique experience between the compressive stone walls and the ultimate release to the sky above. Ever-patient threads of water, sculpting and polishing the massive walls, cut these natural sandstone canyons over millennia. Harder stone and slow water sharply defines vertical slivers while softer stone gives way to wider crevasse.

Architect: richärd+bauer
Location: , Arizona, USA
Project Team: James E. Richard (AIA Designer & Principal in Charge), Kelly Bauer (FIIDA Project Manager + Interior Design), Steve Kennedy (AIA, NCARB Project Architect & CA), Ben Perrone (Project Architect), Stacey Crumbaker (Interior Design)
Mechanical and Plumbing Engineer: Kunka Engineering
Electrical Engineer: OMB Electrical Engineers
Structural Engineer: Caruso Turley Scott, Inc.
Civil Engineer: PKLAND Engineering
Landscape Architect: EGroup
Artist: Norie Sato
Contractor: Redden Construction
Project Area: 20,875 sqf
Project Year: 2007
Photographs: Bill Timmerman, Timmerman Photography, Inc., Mark Boisclair, Mark Boisclair Photography, Inc.

© Bill Timmerman

The library echoes this powerful natural sequence. An earthen and stone roof is thrust from the desert floor, taking with it the native grasses, shrub and stone texture. Organized about a central court, the building is entered through a “slot canyon” of steel and glass. Walls of weathered steel plate reflect the terra-cotta walls of stone as they lean overhead and fall away from the entry path and open to the sky above. The weathered steel walls of the building support an earthen and stone roof, planted with native vegetation and stone from the site. Two roof gardens will contain desert variety trees and groundcovers’, recalling the surface level vegetation as one descends into the canyon.

© Mark Boisclair

A continuous thread of water echo’s the natural erosion of the canyon wall creating the powerful imagery of the building, and eventually pooling in the lower edge of the courtyard. A singular tree is the focus of the space. This centralized court will be used as a pre-function and program spaces for the library and meeting rooms. Two slender “canyon courts” flank the west and south sides of the building, expanding library lounge spaces to the exterior and ultimately opening the building to the sky and desert floor again.

© Mark Boisclair

The LEED Certified building incorporates a subfloor mechanical, electrical and data distribution system, providing long term flexibility in a rapidly changing informational environment. Air stratification techniques minimize the cooling demand on high volume spaces while maximizing patron comfort. The building is lined with perforated hardboard and recycled cotton insulation to accommodate acoustical properties while reinforcing the homogenous notion of the canyon walls. A series of architectural ledges give way to internal clerestories, introducing daylight to the center of the space. The unique program of the library is based on contemporary bookstore concepts, and includes the popular library as well as café and bookstore elements.

© Bill Timmerman
© Bill Timmerman

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* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "Arabian Library / richärd+bauer" 01 May 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 27 May 2015. <>
  • al

    This is what I call Architecture with capital “A”…

  • hovaard

    hmmmm…..i really tried to like this, but i don’t. can’t find the libraryesque in it.

    • ariana roberts

      same here….i think it’s the color. i hate it

  • scott magic

    This is one of the best suburban libraries in the Western USA. The detailing is impeccable and the interior is a suprising refuge from the Arizona heat (and suburban sprawl). Great job Kelly & Jim!

  • scott magic

    This is one of the best suburban libraries in the Western USA. The detailing is impeccable and the interior is a surprising refuge from the Arizona heat (and suburban sprawl). Great job Kelly & Jim!

  • Tiago Tsou

    Great project. Love the plans!