Enhancing a Library’s Role as a Cultural Treasure
Designed and built in 1912 by Cass Gilbert (the same architect who designed the U.S. Supreme Court Building), St. Louis’s Central Library displays the grandeur typical of the era, with facades of rusticated Maine granite, a monumental entrance, a front colossal arcade adorned with contrasting marble panels, and an oval central pavilion surrounded by four light courts. However, the library’s grand structure presented challenges in meeting the needs of today’s library goers.
How does a historic building–one of the jewels of St. Louis–evolve with the times without diminishing the history that makes it so special?
As part of a national design competition, we partnered with the St. Louis Library to answer that question. Our solution focused on restoring and modernizing the building without adding new square footage. We refurbished the grandeur of many of the historic rooms to their original turn-of-the-century splendor, replaced underused staff and support space with 40,00 square feet of new public space, and transformed the north wing–which was closed off to the public to house old book stacks–into an expansive atrium awash with natural light.
The renovated library opened in 2013 and has been widely lauded for the way it reclaimed the architectural glories of the past while offering the modern conveniences of the present. Ron Charles with the Washington Post called it “The most gorgeous–and usable–library I have ever seen.”
Meticulously renovated historic spaces combined with a sensitive combination of new construction within the existing historic shell to create a marvelous set of experiences for visitors.
– AIA/ALA Library Building Awards Jury