The Library project required the design of a significant community staple that fit into a reestablished urban fabric. Groups of three students designed an urban plan for River Street in East Dundee, IL and, within that design, the group chose a site for the library. We sited the library adjacent to the downtown fabric and across the street from a large park. Derived from the program briefing, the notion that libraries are “containers for knowledge” drove the form as a shell or container that holds and protects that knowledge.
This driving concept allowed important or unique spaces to break through the container in order to be expressed externally. The block that contains the children’s library punches through the south-facing curtain wall and individual reading pods punch through the west wall. The children’s library as a block floating in the space provides a surface on which the main library stacks can be placed. By folding and bending one material to simultaneously form the stacks and floor, rigidity is given to the stack system as it cantilevers into the atrium space.
In addition to the strong concepts built into the design of the library, the space also meets the other requirements of the program that include a cafe, gallery space, lecture hall, classrooms, research center, and lounge space where community members are encouraged to “hang out.” All the elements and concepts work together to create a dynamic space that allows a user to actively engage both visually and physically by being able to freely move throughout the volume enclosed by the container.