Frye Gillan Molinaro
libraries for the next generation
Designing award-winning libraries across the nation is one of the Chicago-based firmâ€™s many strengths. Stunning designs, inside and out, help to create inviting spaces for communities.
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Redefining libraries for a new generation From the way they work to the work they design, Frye Gillian Molinaro Architects brings libraries into the digital age, reaching a new demographic through innovative and thoughtful designs.
by Joan Tupponce
In the nationwide library community, the name Frye Gillan Molinaro Architects equates to a standard of excellence. Designing award-winning libraries is one of the Chicago-based company’s many strengths. The firm recently won a 2010 AIA Chicago Design Excellence Award for Interior Architecture for its work on the Poplar Creek Public Library in Streamwood, Ill. The project additionally garnered a 2010 Learning by Design “Citation of Excellence” Award and a 2010 GE Edison Award of Merit. In the project, the architectural firm merged an existing brutalist-inspired library with a fluid new addition to create a contemporary structure that illuminates the night. A connecting new glass tower serves as a lantern that lights the way to the main entrance. Sculptural light boxes on the opposite facade produce a whimsical effect. The contemporary structure has a sharp focus on technology along with a green mindset that includes landscaping concepts such as sedum roofing, native plants and a filtration rain garTHIS PAGE: West Entry, Poplar Creek Public Library, Streamwood, Ill. An entirely new image from Park Avenue features a facade enhanced by a canted glass tower. Soft light from the ramp handrails and the tower add a sense of mystery to the composition, drawing the eye to the entry. The original building, partly recessed below grade and glazed with smoky panes of glass, was far less transparent and attention-grabbing. With energy-efficient low-E clear glass, the new facade entices passers-by. The library’s most daring idea probably is the “Information Commons,” a hallway that connects the adult and children’s departments. The spatially abstract space is also visually absorbing. As another technology hub of the library, it has WI-FI and a long row of computers opposite study counters. The walls feature a textural striped paint pattern to reflect light from the illuminated panels. A fiber-optic sculptural “dragon” hangs in the space, its head and neck serving as official gateway to the children’s department. Photo by George L Ambros. OPPOSITE PAGE: Amoeba looking towards keyhole, Poplar Creek Public Library, Streamwood, Ill. At the end of the main hallway axis, an overlook with glass railing affords views to the lower level and the “keyhole” window. The keyhole was among concepts used in the project to integrate existing architecture with the new building. It borrows an element from the existing round windows, but elongates and enlarges that form. The keyhole also provides an important focus to help terminate the main axis. A split-level quiet reading room adjacent to the keyhole offers refuge from the hubbub outside it. From this balcony view, the visual interaction between levels and spaces can be appreciated, an important concept that makes the space breathe and feel vibrant. Photo by George L Ambros.
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den. A recessed garden, for example, was designed to utilize local flagstone and native plants. Over 15,000 sq. ft. of green roof was integrated into the design. The roof will have insulating properties during the winter and prevent heat gain during the summer. The project also included high efficiency lights, plumbing fixtures and HVAC systems along with recycled rubber floors and chairs and tables with recycled metals and plastics. For the interior, the company created comfortable lounges out of the existing reading rooms and used natural light coupled with colors, textures and patterns to provide visceral depth in the flexible, functional social center. Original single-pane glazing was replaced with modern low-E insulated glazing to increase the efficiency of heating and cooling the building. LED fixtures were used for task and accent lighting to provide high-efficiency light
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sources. The LED light wall not only illuminates the area in a creative way but it also helps infuse art into the space. A programmable array of light fixtures was used to produce shows that can be used on special occasions as well as daily opening and closing shows that greet and alert patrons. The green design also features light monitors and skylights on the roof that capture the sun’s angle during the winter and prevent heat gain during the summer. Frye Gillan Molinaro Architects has completed over 100 libraries – 25 are Carnegie restorations and expansions – since its founding in 1983. “That is how we developed our niche,” said company president Lonn Frye. “We specialize in libraries. It wasn’t planned. It just happened. We also like to do other buildings that have a cultural focus.” The company has established itself as a viable contemporary firm that offers cutting edge designs as well as historic restorations. “We like to explore the creative aspect,” Frye said. “We want to experiment with other types of design projects.” The firm is currently in a pre-design phase with the Brown County Central Library renovation in Green Bay, Wisconsin. “They want something special that will draw people into the city,” Frye said. “The question is ‘How can this library generate extra economic growth?’ It has to become a
OPPOSITE PAGE: Preschool Department, Poplar Creek Public Library, Streamwood, Ill. This room formerly housed the entire children’s department, and was quite stark. Sheer walls of concrete and masonry were transformed with colorful panels to brighten the space and provide some acoustic tempering. New carpet patterns and a playful book stack layout accentuate the space, while above, ductwork once painted red, yellow and blue was changed to black to reduce its prominence. New lighting gives a warmer, more even feel to the space. In a dramatic change, a concrete walkway that once was the department’s entry point was removed, allowing a previously blocked skylight to flood the area with natural light. Photo by George L Ambros.
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cultural center to draw people together and give downtown vibrancy.” The company builds the type of projects that attract the community. “That is a skill we have developed over the years,” said principal A. J. Rosales. Take for example the Detroit Public Library project. Frye Gillan Molinaro worked on a new teen center concept that includes everything from a stage and gaming options to LED lighting and state-of-the-art technology. “Everything in that project is dynamic and related to the user,” Frye said. “It’s meant to attract the user.” The libraries of today are more of an investment in mankind than simply a large building with shelves of books. That’s one reason the Detroit Public Library asked Frye Gillan Molinaro to take the cavernous spaces with rows of books and tables and create a series of intimate living rooms for its patrons. “They want human scale spaces with different lighting,” Frye said, adding that another library trend involves helping patrons with the job search process. Many libraries are converting spaces into career centers. “Libraries are busy now because of the recession.” Frye Gillan Molinaro’s industry expertise helps the company tap into the spirit of its clients to create spaces with functionality and personality. “You have to be creative and have a bit of a kick to the design to make it special,” Frye said. The company’s creativity was on display after it won a public design competition for the Pearl City Pavilion in downtown Muscatine, Iowa in 2007. The pavilion, which is currently waiting for funding, will include a new museum, theater and library. It will help promote cultural and economic growth along the city’s riverfront district. Frye Gillan Molinaro also won praise for its contemporary, competition winning library design at Saint Xavier University in Chicago, Illinois which, when built, will become a gateway on campus. The firm competed against three other prestigious architectural firms. The clever design has two facades. The massive curving glass facade on the campus THIS PAGE: Childrens Department, Poplar Creek Public Library, Streamwood, Ill. This renovation of an existing space houses the grade school collection along with plenty of tables and private study rooms. A technology hub is nearby, giving older children their own computer center. The ceiling has round gypsum soffits placed concentrically on exposed concrete columns. Light fixtures were mounted to the columns and shine upward on the discs, providing an indirect light that softens the space. A self-check and search catalog “pod” reinforces the goal of using integrated technology to enhance the library experience. Photo by George L Ambros.
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ABOVE: Renovated Reading Room, Poplar Creek Public Library, Streamwood, Ill. The existing building’s architecture perhaps took some inspiration from Louis Kahn’s Exeter Library, with a brutalist take on exposed concrete and wood beams. This reading room was transformed not only by the hanging light fixtures, but by the redesign of the mechanical layout to eliminate air ducts from protruding into the center of the space. The existing rounded windows were upgraded to double-pane, low-E glass. Shelves holding New Fiction complete the space, which encourages casual browsing and comfortable seating in a light-filled room.
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side of the building allows students to view outside activities. The more solid facade on the neighborhood side shields the neighbors from the bustling campus activity and creates a monumental gateway. One of the important aspects of the firm’s work is its use of building information modeling (BIM). “Everything we do is drawn in 3-D mode,” Frye said. “We are quite forward thinking on that issue.” Architectural firms today have to be able to explain their designs thoroughly and quickly when they are presenting them to clients. “You have to be able to show it to them visually in
a three dimensional manner,” Frye said. “That allows them to see more.” Most of the company’s clients are in the Midwest but it accepts projects in other parts of the country. “We do a lot of work in Colorado Springs,” said Frye. “We’ve also won AIA awards for libraries that we designed in El Paso. We are now working on a library in Defiance, Ohio and the South Wing renovation project for the Detroit Public Library.” Many library systems are repeat customers. “We have a strong presence because of our track record,” Frye said. “Our customers have a long-term respect for us.” ALT
“We specialize in libraries. It wasn’t planned. It just happened. We also like to do other buildings that have a cultural focus.” Fall 2010 9
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