Community Library

Location:  Syracuse, NY

Completed:  Summer 2017

Program:  Public Library

Construction Type:  New Building

Sustainability:  LEED Design Strategies

Awards:  2018 AIA CNY Award of Merit

Following the industrial and agrarian heritage of Syracuse, the new Community library of Dewitt + Jamesville is a site sensitive and sustainable response to its surrounding context.  Having outgrown the commercial space from which it had served Syracuse for over 50 years, the library began the process of evaluating other possible locations to better serve the communities 17,000 immediate residents. This led to the selection of a more centrally located site along Jamesville Road.  The dramatically sloping natural site, which was once used briefly as an active quarry, is positioned within a mix of residential homes and large industrial structures.

The design combines both the natural and industrial qualities of its place. This is reflected directly in the building massing and façade articulation,which is composed of three primary formal elements; a cedar wood surface highlighting the main entry, a simple rectangular volume clad in locally quarried Alverson limestone;and a series of angular sheds wrapped in an aluminum metal panel. The use of these materials allows the scale of the building to respond to the immediate context.  Along the main entry and Jamesville road façade, the wood and angular saw tooth volumes bring down the presence of the building to the scale of the pedestrian and adjacent residential homes. The design carries the industrial character through the interior where the natural stone, exposed wood roof deck and steel beams bring a warmth and brightness to the spaces.

The building is programmed with a large two-story reading atrium, a dedicated space for the children’s collections and activity room, a collection and study space for teens, a Makers space, meeting rooms of various sizes for flexibility, a café and expanded work spaces for staff.  These areas are organized into four major spatial volumes that pin-wheel outwards into the site from the central lobby.  This organizational structure not only serves as a reference to the spiraling form of the past mining operation located on site, but also serves as a strategy to give each space natural daylight and the proper isolation for acoustical privacy.  The reading atrium provides a unique community space for individuals or large groups to gather.  In this spacious light filled room, the fixed books shelves and HVAC distribution system are positioned on the perimeter, opening up the central floor area for furniture that can be re-arranged to serve different needs and configurations.

In addition to referencing the industrial vernacular, the suspended saw tooth volumes serve a practical and performative purpose by providing modulated northern light for the Children’s Spaces as well as creating an angled roof surface that maximizes the efficiency of solar panels, aiding in offsetting electricity cost.  The vertical tower, which references an industrial “headframe”, serves as a visible beacon that can be seen from great distances and brings light deep into the central lobby interior.  To help with mitigating storm water run-off, the design utilizes a green roof system which is visible from the pedestrian sidewalk along Jamesville Road.