In recent years, the District of Columbia Public Library (DCPL) has embarked on a program of building architecturally noteworthy facilities in a variety of Washington neighborhoods. The twofold mission clearly emphasizes the value of books and reading while fostering a sense of community cohesion. Of these districts, Anacostia, once plagued by drugs, crime, and poverty, is particularly ripe for such an ambitious effort.
In selecting the Freelon Group of Durham, North Carolina, in association with R. McGhee & Associates, to design the District of Columbia New Anacostia Neighborhood Library, the client made it clear it wanted an iconic building that would engage the community around it. DCPL didn’t know it at the time (2007), but it selected the architect who would soon be involved in designing another, even more visible, icon: the National Museum of African American History and Culture, where Freelon is working with a team of architects led by David Adjaye and including Davis Brody Bond Aedas and the Smith Group. Interestingly, Adjaye and Davis Brody Bond Aedas are also designing libraries for Washington, and Freelon has just finished the Tenley Friendship Neighborhood Library.
Since the $10.3 million Anacostia library straddles an area that gradually shifts from commercial to residential buildings in the city’s southeast section, Freelon decided to beef up the scale at the entrance with a bright green, perforated bent-metal canopy and a 37-foot-high light tower clad in frosted laminated glass. As visitors arrive at the expansive entrance plaza on Good Hope Road, they readily see the various activities of the library’s main floor though the 17-foot-high glazed window wall.
The idea was to create a library “with both high visibility and transparency of function,” says Jeff Bonvechio, director of 21st Century Capital Projects for DCPL.