The Libbie Mill Library Story-Part 2

October 8, 2015

This is the second in a series of posts on Henrico County’s newest library, Libbie Mill that captures all of the aspects of our thinking and design process for this special place. The 60,000 square foot library has been envisioned as a hub for learning, positive individual transformation and community advancement in the center of Libbie Mill Midtown, a new 80-acre mixed use urban development west of Staples Mill Road in the center of Henrico. The library’s civic presence at the heart of Libbie Mill Midtown will contribute to the overall urban fabric of this pedestrian scaled community. 

The Libbie Mill Library Story- Part 2

When our BCWH / Tappé team set out to design the new Libbie Mill Library, we were thrilled by the incredible opportunity before us: a new public library at the heart of a new urban mixed use development intended to create a bustling community within Henrico County.

Construction within the Libbie Mill Midtown development had just begun when our team began working on the library’s design.  The developer had envisioned Libbie Mill Midtown to be reminiscent of Richmond’s riverfront warehouse and industrial buildings, which contribute so much to the area’s rich, historical urban fabric. The new buildings of the surrounding development would directly reflect the character of these historic structures.

Our design team chose to interpret the warehouse / industrial theme in a more contemporary manner, all the while still respecting these buildings’ general form and order. The development’s surrounding buildings were all designed to be clad in brick with a consistent window style and pattern. We likewise chose to use a modular clay masonry product, but instead selected terra cotta tiles which are much larger than traditional brick.  The stacked terra cotta tiles creates a regular rhythm on the face of the library and respectfully blend with the texture, color and feel of the neighboring buildings’ brick façades.

During our early phases of design, we assessed local historical precedents when studying the placement and sizes of the library’s windows – keeping a regular, marching rhythm across the façade but at a larger scale than the historical precedents.  We likewise studied these precedents to help inform our design decisions about building proportions, exterior colors, and “bump-outs” (or very large, modern versions of bay windows). The Libbie Mill Library is designed to serve as a beacon for the community, while simultaneously complementing the other buildings within the development.

Our team initially conceived a single large rectangular building volume due to the limited site size and the specific programmatic elements contained within the building.  As we began to develop the interior layout of the building, we saw both the need and opportunity for the building façade to respond to and celebrate the library’s interior spaces.  Where some portions of the building required a little less interior space, we pulled the façade inward to create an appropriately sized area. Where other portions of the building contained unique areas that would benefit from additional dedicated space, natural light, and/or views, we pushed the building façade outward to create cantilevered “boxes.”  Our process led to a design that elegantly and effectively serves the interior spaces while simultaneously creating a dynamic, almost playful building form.

The ultimate goal is to provide an energizing, inspiring place for members of the community to come together to learn, explore, collaborate, and connect with one another.  We encourage you to come be a part of this new community hub when the library opens on October 29th.

Check back next week for our post featuring the interior design elements for the Libbie Mill Library.