Performance Driven, Poetically Crafted Architecture

Virtual Reality Tour: Fountaindale Public Library District

October 2, 2018

Click on the image above to begin Virtual Tour.

The vibrant character of the new Fountaindale Public Library is rooted in local community concerns and in pragmatic library design. The building’s underlying structural grid derives from standard bookstack and aisle dimensions. The building’s organically shaped exterior mediates the rational structural grid and the surrounding park environment. The local park system is a primary source of community pride and residents envisioned the new library as a library in the park.

This vision created a fundamental design challenge—how to realize the library-in-the-park daydream on a treeless site consisting of a detention pond and baseball diamonds. The building’s organic shape was one design strategy. Others included landscaped terraces, tree-like interior elements and natural wood finishes and structural elements.

The most effective design strategy in service of the community’s vision is the custom fritted glass walls that wrap the building’s primary public spaces. The shadow cast by a tree was photographed, traced and digitized and given to the glass manufacturer to create the ceramic frit pattern that was applied to the glass. Sunlight shining through the glass creates forest-like shadows that blanket library interiors. At night, the glass fritting suggests a lacey veil wrapping the library.

Two overarching trends in library services exemplify public libraries’ transformation from inward to community focus. One is a shift from content consumption towards content creation. The other is an emphasis on differentiated experience. Both shaped the design of the Fountaindale Public Library.

Content creation underlies the organization and design of the Children’s department. Project-based interior ‘parks’ featuring tree-like exhibit structures encourage children to create and display art work and other projects made at the Library.

The Library’s digital media production studio is an exemplary model for the content creation emphasis. Sound isolation recording booths, technology-rich collaborative meeting rooms and video recording studios surround a computer lab featuring professional production software. Prosumer-grade musical instruments and microphones, video cameras and studio lighting are available to anyone with a library card. In the tradition of libraries as lending institutions, the studio provides library users access to production resources otherwise not available to the public.
As one ascends the Library, interiors are unified by a general progression from enclosed and intimate to bright and airy. Diverse environments within this progression welcome a range of differentiated experiences and give Library interiors a spatial vitality that complements the building’s dynamic forms—the teen space features chain-link and skateboard art and anime wallcovering, wood study rooms a warm intimacy, the lobby a low wood ceiling spreading from a featured column, the top floor a contemporary version of a grand reading room.