Unique Design

Public Library in Phoenix, Arizona Awarded for its Unique Design

by Matt Tinder, media, AIA

From Architectural West May/Jun ’11

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has selected five recipients to receive the 2011 AIA/ALA Library Building Awards.  Biennially, representatives from the AIA and the American Library Association (ALA) gather to celebrate the finest examples of library design by architects licensed in the U.S.  The 2011 AIA/ALA Library Building Awards honor five separate projects.

         In the West, Harmon Library, a small library in the heart of an urban park in downtown Phoenix, Ariz., was selected as a recipient of the award.  Over time, the diverse neighborhood has integrated the library as a key element within the community:  a place to connect for adults and an important after-school resource for working families. 

         Celebrating the wide diversity and demographic of the community, the building is conceived as a kaleidoscope.  The design involves a primary linear space framed on each end with a large expanse of saw-tooth glass.  Colored linear skylights and slot windows along the upper skin refract light throughout the space, casting a dynamic and ever-changing play of color.  The interior of the reading area’s upper volume is lined in perforated metal, and lighting and color provide the kaleidoscope effect down the length of the building.

         Establishing a core reading area, the 25’ high central volume suspends graphic panels from the structural trusses, composing a lyrical play of texture and color reflecting across floor, walls, and furniture.  Elements like the simple furniture are consistent with the project’s overall idea of resourcefulness – simple, humble details done right. 

         The library provides multi-purpose spaces for the vastly different age groups that make up the clientele.  Exterior and interior spaces were organized to permit a variety of spatial opportunities without compromising divergent age groups needs.  Large sliding doors open to provide flexible meeting space for community gatherings.  Open courtyards are organized adjacent to each age group’s spaces.  The 12,500 square foot building includes a large public meeting room, dedicated study space, and exterior garden courts. 

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