Daily Features

Civic Space and Roadside Billboard: Library Inspired by a Stack of Books

A Delaware library by Ikon.5 Architects takes a page from a pile of books

By Stela Razzaque, Superscript November 13, 2013

The Kirkwood Public Library in New Castle, Delaware, breaks away from the traditional mold of library buildings. Designed by the Princeton, NJ–based Ikon.5 Architects, the structure has enhanced its commercial surroundings with an eye-catching facade made up of a series of horizontal cement boards—a symbolic abstraction of a stack of books.

The facade was designed to look like a stack of books. © James D'Addio / Ikon.5 Architects

The main reading room. © James D'Addio / Ikon.5 Architects

The main entrance to the Kirkwood Public Library. © James D'Addio / Ikon.5 Architects

 © James D'Addio / Ikon.5 Architects

Inside the Kirkwood Public Library in New Castle, Delaware. © James D'Addio / Ikon.5 Architects


The Kirkwood Public Library by Ikon.5 Architects. © James D'Addio / Ikon.5 Architects

The library is meant to read as a billboard from far away. © James D'Addio / Ikon.5 Architects

The Book

The Library James W. P. Campbell
Will Pryce

Rather than viewing the commercial highway location as a hindrance to great design, the project architects used it as inspiration, and envisioned "a roadside billboard announcing the public civic function of reading, learning, and exploration." Appearing as a large collection of books on a highway flanked with commercial billboards and fast food restaurants, this theme of reading is visible in every aspect of the design.

© Ikon.5 Architects

Adjacent to a small residential neighborhood, a double-height canopy at the building’s main entrance cantilevers from the facade, symbolizing the curling of the pages of a book while providing shelter. Dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows allow an abundance of light to enter the interior spaces of the library and enhance the reading experience, but also permits outdoor views, while controlling solar gain and glare.

As a physical form, the architects intended the building to serve as a representation of the community’s commitment to reading and literacy. But in addition this this, the Kirkwood Public Library also incorporates sustainable green elements to reduce energy consumption and cost. The greatest form of energy consumption in a public library is heating, air-conditioning, and lighting. Therefore high performance green elements including solar screens, highly reflective roofing, radiant heating and bio retention storm water basins have been successfully integrated into the architecture.

Ikon.5 Architects described the design process as a highly collaborative one that involved community participation throughout the stages of development. Their goal was to create a new and iconic library branch, with a visible program arranged along the length of the highway that would become the civic focal point of a growing community. The project serves as a demonstration of how inexpensive building materials and construction techniques can result in innovative and evocative solutions.

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