Louisville Free Public Library Southwest / JRA Architects + MSR
Text description provided by the architects. The Louisville Southwest Regional Library is the first of three full-service library facilities strategically positioned in the suburban perimeter of Louisville, Kentucky. A system master plan developed after the city-county governmental merger focused capital investment on these large-scale buildings, which could house an extensive material collection, and offer outlying residents the same level of service and amenities available at the main branch downtown.
Over 120,000 books and media offerings are available in this building that aspires to be a vessel for daylight. The building’s massing and clerestory glazing deliberately subdivide, stretch, and carve the envelope to provide an optimal amount of daylight throughout the facility. The exterior was inspired by the act of discovery, with symbolic metal curtains that are peeled away to reveal greater knowledge within. A variety of earth tone materials were selected for their durability, texture, and depth, allowing daylight and shadow to animate the facade throughout the day.
The surrounding site re-imagines the suburban parking lot as a vessel for rainwater, allowing the property to collect and infiltrate all the water from several surrounding properties to relieve the burden on the municipal system. The need for supreme adaptability drove the interior arrangement, allowing the facility to react to rapid changes in library programming. Interior spaces were shaped by deliberately oriented shelving, transparent partitions, and changing ceiling planes. These create a wide variety of personal experiences to suit visitors’ preferences while maintaining direct lines of sight through the library to ease security and patron circulation.
Throughout the interior, conventional materials and systems were leveraged to achieve unexpected design elements, from the faceted acoustic ceiling systems to warped drywall surfaces to the composition of globe lights and colorful, sheer fabrics in the beacon bay.
The building structure and systems empower the client’s desire for supreme adaptability. Long-span steel joists eliminate interior columns, and the steel superstructure maximizes transparency at the building perimeter. A pressurized plenum access floor system allows rapid reconfiguration of furniture and technology, while also delivering conditioned air only to the occupied zone of the voluminous interior. The primary exterior cladding is micro embossed, flatlock stainless steel featuring a weathering bronze treatment that offered subtle color variations of other natural metal finishes.
Fiber cement panels emerge from beneath the metal to clad the east façade, while a vibrant orange polished plaster system highlights an evocative entrance procession. The entire project serves as a new model of sustainability for the city and has been LEED Gold certified. More importantly, the new Southwest Regional Library aspires to be a landmark in the community for generations to come, offering lifelong learning to its users, and acting as a catalyst for more compelling and environmentally sensitive suburban development.