Text description provided by the architects. The new Whitehall Library is a 19,500 square foot new branch library located on 3 acres along a main arterial road in a suburban community in Columbus. The building was conceived as a new generation library, going beyond the traditional role as a repository of books and serving as a vital community center, a technological portal to information and a source for lifelong learning.
The design goals are simple. The building should be inviting, accessible, transparent, open and flexible. This creates a hyper-legibility where building access, functions and wayfinding are simultaneously evident.
The single story, pedestrian-scaled structure is sited along the main thoroughfare to the north. The gentle bow-shape of the building responds to the linear site and emphasizes the center entries. The exterior facades are composed of a series of flat, metal panels and glass storefront with greater transparency at the public spaces to the north and less so at the staff spaces and meeting rooms facing south.
The north pedestrian entry and south vehicular entry are each signified by a proscenium of terra cotta with views through each projecting into and through the building. By extending above the roof, the frame of the south entry provides backlighting to the exterior space below. The entry sequence is defined by a compression created by the interior welcome zone that connects the entries and bisects the main public space. The terra cotta cladding continues from the exterior to the interior of the welcome zone and the ceiling transitions to a wood screen with integral lighting.
The library’s main public functions are defined by a large, rational, rectangular space accommodating a children’s area, teen area, commodity computing, book stacks and a quiet reading room. The simple configuration and a raised access floor throughout create maximum flexibility. This will allow the library to respond easily and effectively to rapidly changing functional demands in the short and long terms. The predominant light here is northern and reading-friendly. Additional functions include a homework help area, reconfigurable meeting spaces, a teen recording studio and staff work spaces.
The public space, extending east and west from the compressed space of the entry, expands vertically with warped ceilings of exposed structural steel beams. The raised volumes open to views of the meadow grass landscape that extends outward from the building lines. With these pastoral views and the more urban views of the busy street to the north, the library’s connection to and identity with the community is made evident.