Contract - Madison Central Library

design - features - institutional design



Madison Central Library

22 August, 2014

-By John Czarnecki. Photography by Lara Swimmer


Home to the state capital and the flagship campus of the state’s university system, Madison, Wisconsin, is known as a progressive, civic-minded community that is culturally aware and focused on the needs of its citizens. Until recently, though, the Madison Central Library plainly did not reflect that ethos. The uninviting, dated 1960s structure was seemingly closed off from the rest of downtown Madison and in dire need of an update inside as well. A renovation and addition has dramatically transformed the library to coincide well with the city that it serves.

The city of Madison initially planned to demolish the unloved Central Library structure and move forward with a developer-led scheme for a mixed-use building with offices, retail, and a new
library on the top four of eight floors. But the library’s leadership didn’t like the concept of potentially being above ground level, and the proposed deal with the developer fell apart as
architecture firms interviewed for the job. Minneapolis-based MSR was selected to design the rejuvenated library, with Madison-based Potter Lawson serving as the associate architect.

From the start, MSR developed a concept to redevelop and redefine the original building, and that won over the library’s leadership. “It was my role to really push not just the status quo, but the project too,” says MSR Principal Traci Lesneski. “We needed to push it a little further, trying to find opportunities within the existing building.”

Creating a public destination
The $30 million transformation, including a 25,000-square-foot expansion, incorporates an increase in the library’s conference rooms to 22 overall, increased space for children and teens,
an art gallery and community room, and public art enlivening the interiors. “Creating a destination library with many places to gather for groups large and small, a center for activity, and places
for hands-on learning: Those were the goals,” Lesneski says. The exterior had been foreboding, a part of a block that was, overall, not pedestrian-friendly. MSR’s solution created more glass openings, allowing the interior to be more visible from the street, and the library is now a key component in revitalizing what was a declining part of downtown.

A new glass atrium, welcoming entrance, large window openings, and LED-lit exterior wall panels that change color enhance the street presence. Inside, an open stair was intentionally placed along the glazed perimeter so that people outside can see people moving inside the building. Art, fixtures, and furniture enliven spaces A two-story, metal sculpture with 372 LED lights, Question Mark by Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt, faces the exterior from inside, and is part of an ambitious public art program that energizes the building with many pieces by local artists. In
the children’s area, artists Tom Loeser and Dave Chapman created pieces called Willow Pods that children and parents can sit in. The whimsical children’s floor, which has become a destination for families, evokes an open meadow with dappled sunlight and vibrant colors.

It features light fixtures that resemble cloud formations and reading nooks that light up when a person crawls in. Living room–like spaces on the first and second floors have ample daylight, comfortable seating, and many integrated power and data plug-ins. Throughout the library, glass-enclosed meeting rooms can be reserved for individuals or groups. For the many after-hours events, custom designed walnut veneer screens that slide on motorized rails can close off the library from the open atrium.

A long, linear space in which to sit and relax, the new third-floor Madison Room is now a library highlight and can be an event space. Three weddings have been conducted in the space so far, and 10 more are booked. “We have the public to thank for inspiring some of the best features of the building, like the Madison Room,” Lesneski says. “Through the public sessions, we heard over and over that places to meet, gather, and celebrate as a community were of paramount importance, and that’s exactly what the Madison Room has become.”

On track for LEED Gold for New Construction, the library is no longer a dark building solely housing book stacks; it’s the community’s new soul. A studio space for crafts and art creation called the Bubbler Room and Media Lab, where an artist-in-residence can collaborate with visitors in hands-on classes, further enhances the library. “It’s really become a stage or platform where
individuals can share their expertise. I see the library as an experience now,” says Greg Mickells, the director of the library, which experienced a 27 percent increase in visits in its first three months after reopening in fall 2013. “Our vision is that the library is a place in which we want people to learn, to share, and to create.”

Madison Central Library
Architect and Interior Designer: MSR
Associate Architect: Potter Lawson
Client: City of Madison
Where: Madison, Wisconsin
What: 119,260 total square feet on four floors
Cost/sf $164




Madison Central Library

22 August, 2014


Home to the state capital and the flagship campus of the state’s university system, Madison, Wisconsin, is known as a progressive, civic-minded community that is culturally aware and focused on the needs of its citizens. Until recently, though, the Madison Central Library plainly did not reflect that ethos. The uninviting, dated 1960s structure was seemingly closed off from the rest of downtown Madison and in dire need of an update inside as well. A renovation and addition has dramatically transformed the library to coincide well with the city that it serves.

The city of Madison initially planned to demolish the unloved Central Library structure and move forward with a developer-led scheme for a mixed-use building with offices, retail, and a new
library on the top four of eight floors. But the library’s leadership didn’t like the concept of potentially being above ground level, and the proposed deal with the developer fell apart as
architecture firms interviewed for the job. Minneapolis-based MSR was selected to design the rejuvenated library, with Madison-based Potter Lawson serving as the associate architect.

From the start, MSR developed a concept to redevelop and redefine the original building, and that won over the library’s leadership. “It was my role to really push not just the status quo, but the project too,” says MSR Principal Traci Lesneski. “We needed to push it a little further, trying to find opportunities within the existing building.”

Creating a public destination
The $30 million transformation, including a 25,000-square-foot expansion, incorporates an increase in the library’s conference rooms to 22 overall, increased space for children and teens,
an art gallery and community room, and public art enlivening the interiors. “Creating a destination library with many places to gather for groups large and small, a center for activity, and places
for hands-on learning: Those were the goals,” Lesneski says. The exterior had been foreboding, a part of a block that was, overall, not pedestrian-friendly. MSR’s solution created more glass openings, allowing the interior to be more visible from the street, and the library is now a key component in revitalizing what was a declining part of downtown.

A new glass atrium, welcoming entrance, large window openings, and LED-lit exterior wall panels that change color enhance the street presence. Inside, an open stair was intentionally placed along the glazed perimeter so that people outside can see people moving inside the building. Art, fixtures, and furniture enliven spaces A two-story, metal sculpture with 372 LED lights, Question Mark by Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt, faces the exterior from inside, and is part of an ambitious public art program that energizes the building with many pieces by local artists. In
the children’s area, artists Tom Loeser and Dave Chapman created pieces called Willow Pods that children and parents can sit in. The whimsical children’s floor, which has become a destination for families, evokes an open meadow with dappled sunlight and vibrant colors.

It features light fixtures that resemble cloud formations and reading nooks that light up when a person crawls in. Living room–like spaces on the first and second floors have ample daylight, comfortable seating, and many integrated power and data plug-ins. Throughout the library, glass-enclosed meeting rooms can be reserved for individuals or groups. For the many after-hours events, custom designed walnut veneer screens that slide on motorized rails can close off the library from the open atrium.

A long, linear space in which to sit and relax, the new third-floor Madison Room is now a library highlight and can be an event space. Three weddings have been conducted in the space so far, and 10 more are booked. “We have the public to thank for inspiring some of the best features of the building, like the Madison Room,” Lesneski says. “Through the public sessions, we heard over and over that places to meet, gather, and celebrate as a community were of paramount importance, and that’s exactly what the Madison Room has become.”

On track for LEED Gold for New Construction, the library is no longer a dark building solely housing book stacks; it’s the community’s new soul. A studio space for crafts and art creation called the Bubbler Room and Media Lab, where an artist-in-residence can collaborate with visitors in hands-on classes, further enhances the library. “It’s really become a stage or platform where
individuals can share their expertise. I see the library as an experience now,” says Greg Mickells, the director of the library, which experienced a 27 percent increase in visits in its first three months after reopening in fall 2013. “Our vision is that the library is a place in which we want people to learn, to share, and to create.”

Madison Central Library
Architect and Interior Designer: MSR
Associate Architect: Potter Lawson
Client: City of Madison
Where: Madison, Wisconsin
What: 119,260 total square feet on four floors
Cost/sf $164

 


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