Friday, December 3, 2010

new, cheaper silver spring library design an improvement

On Tuesday, Montgomery County unveiled a revised design for the Silver Spring Library, to be built at the corner of Wayne Avenue and Fenton Street in downtown Silver Spring. While the plans aren't too different from the "final" drawings we saw last fall, officials say the new scheme will actually be a better building while saving the county money.

Wayne-Fenton Night Perspective

Library From Wayne and Fenton
The Silver Spring Library design today (above) and last year (below). Images courtesy of the Lukmire Partnership.

“I think we’ve gotten to the point where the design where it now stands is actually an improvement over the initial design, and at the same time has gotten us much closer to the budget as to where we need to be,” architect Greg Lukmire of the Arlington-based Lukmire Partnership Lukmire Partnership told TBD.

The $29 million, 65,000-square foot building will still contain an art gallery and studios, community meeting rooms, county government offices and a Purple Line stop, not to mention a library. What's changed is how those uses will interact with each other. On the ground level, there will still be a coffee shop and an art gallery sponsored by Pyramid Atlantic, but studios associated with the gallery have been moved from the second to sixth floors, freeing up room downstairs for community meeting spaces.

Four Color Schemes
Four proposed color schemes for the Silver Spring Library. Image courtesy of the Lukmire Partnership.

The three-story library, with separate levels for young-adult books, adult books and children's books, remains much as it was before. Even the renderings (PDF!) on the County's website show the same interior drawings as last year. And a proposed pedestrian bridge connecting the library to the Wayne Avenue Garage across the street remains in discussion. But a suite of government offices on the seventh floor, meant to contain the non-profit African-American Health Program, Asian-American Health Initiative and Latino Health Initiative, has been downsized from 16,000 to 10,000 square feet and may be eliminated altogether.

Outside, however, the library looks far sleeker than before. Last November, Lukmire presented the exterior design as a metaphor for an open book. The idea was compelling, but the result was a big, heavy box, albeit one covered in glass, that seemed to overwhelm the street below. Now, the architects have turned that big box into a little lantern holding just the library stacks and reading rooms, which will glow at night when all the lights are on. Getting rid of the angled canopy in the original design, which Lukmire referred to as the book's "cover," helps the Purple Line station underneath feel larger and brighter.

White on Black
The new library, shown in elevation, has masonry in addition to glass. Image courtesy of the Lukmire Partnership.

The so-called "service spaces" of the building, like staff rooms and service closets, are tucked behind a masonry wall, which contrasts with the glass walls and helps the complex blend in with its brick- and stone-clad neighbors. Perhaps it's a little too familiar, as the grey stone resembles that already used on the District Court building at Second and Apple avenues, the Civic Building at Ellsworth and Fenton, and even the Crescent condominiums next door. Thankfully, Lukmire has presented four different color schemes for the stone and metal used on the library's fa├žade, which will hopefully assuage the fears of people, myself included, who weren't too excited about the bright orange we saw last fall.

My favorite feature of the new design is the "Silver Spring Library" marquee at the corner of Fenton Street and Wayne Avenue. Throughout the years-long design process, residents have complained that the new complex shortchanges the library for a bunch of other uses. Putting the word "library" on a big sign outside the building will hopefully emphasize that, despite all of the different things happening there, this place is still one where you can borrow and read books.

Fenton-Bonifant Perspective
The library, seen from the corner of Fenton and Bonifant streets, will incorporate a Purple Line station. Image courtesy of the Lukmire Partnership.

The rooftop terrace outside the sixth-floor art studios also sounds exciting, especially the views. I'm worried that this space may not be as accessible to the public as it would've been in the original design when community rooms opened onto the terrace, especially after the controversy last summer over space given to Round House Theatre inside the Civic Building. Ideally, the rooftop could become something like the one atop VisArts, a similar art gallery-and-studio adjacent to the Rockville Memorial Library, though I wonder if any rap videos will be filmed there.

Fortunately, another year of waiting has yielded an even better design for the new Silver Spring Library. While some work has begun on its site at Wayne and Fenton, we'll have to wait at least another year for the project to be completed, as Don Scheuerman from the county's Department of General Services says you won't be checking out any books here until January 2014.

Thanks to friend of JUTP Alex Hutchinson for the heads-up. Check out this photoset with more renderings, drawings and plans.


Robert said...

The new design is an improvement to the old design, which was already pretty good. If they really want to save money, though, they should simply move the Purple line tracks east a bit so they would be in Fenton Street rather than through the building. That way they wouldn't have to go to the expense of hanging the library over the tracks -- a lot of the library floors will actually be hung from above rather than supported from below. That has to be a really expensive way to build a building. Why not move the tracks out into the street and build a conventional building?

Elysian said...

Is it just me or do two of those four "color schemes" looks exactly the same, but one has less shadow (I'm talking top left and bottom left). If they can build the library to eliminate shadows, more power to them, but...

jag2923 said...

Excited. One question - all the renderings seem to have a single track for the purple that accurate? Obviously, purple line is still in planning stage and could be changed anyway, but I'd assume they're either building enough space for 1 track or 2....

WashingtonGardener said...

Yes, agree with jag2923, what is diff between upper left and lower left in their colors? They look the same here. (Finding it funny that PL tracks are actually shown as bring purple - I wish!)