This is an excerpt of an article from the October 2008 edition of Architectural Record.
The modest size and budget of the Gentry Public Library (11,970 square feet, at $108 per square foot) belies its importance to the community of Gentry, Arkansas. The library has become the cornerstone of the revitalization of its downtown district and an important resource for educating the 2,500 residents. While it took seven years to complete the project, despite budget constraints and a few naysayers, “the community never wavered,” says the architect Marlon Blackwell, AIA, of Marlon Blackwell Architects, whose offices are located in nearby Fayetteville.
Like many small towns in America, Gentry struggles with a deserted Main Street where department stores, pharmacies, and hardware shops have been shuttered in recent decades. Employment opportunities are scarce: Most of the town’s residents work at the local McKee Foods plant (best known for Little Debbie snacks). Being located near the Ozark Mountains in the northwest corner of Arkansas, one of the poorest states in the nation, doesn’t help. Blackwell describes the town’s Main Street as “a hardscrabble, somewhat faded, rough-around-the-edges place that bears the evidence of a much more vital time.” He adds, though, that “it is coming back-slowly — but with purpose.”
The library was to be built in a two-story, century-old brick structure that formerly housed a hardware store. Though of little architectural significance, the building was treasured by the community, and many wished to preserve it. The program consisted of a reading room and related library services, a community room, and a history and genealogy center.
Undeveloped land around the building suggested opportunities for extending community activities at the library outdoors. Part of the project’s scope originally included a vertical garden wall on the back side of the library and construction of an exhibition building for antique fire trucks to be sited behind the library. Both these projects were put on hold due to a shortage of funds.
City of Gentry
Marlon Blackwell Architect
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Project Manager: Ati Blackwell, Assoc.AIA
Project Team: Gail Shepherd, AIA (reg.architect); David Tanner, Assoc.AIA; Julie Chambers, AIA (reg.architect); Scott Scales; Tony Patterson
SSi, Inc. of Northwest Arkansas
Watercolors by Tony Patterson
CAD system, project management, or other software used
Metal/glass curtainwall: Custom Storefront - Preferred Systems Inc. for the Metal / Bentonville Glass Co. for the Glass
Concrete: Anders Concrete Inc. started / SSi finished
Wood: MSI for the Rough Carpentry
EIFS, ACM, or other: Stucco – Wortman Smart Plastering – CrossTech Construction Products
Metal: Franklin & Sons Inc. for Roof and Soffit Trim
Skylights: Custom – RGC Glass and Top 40 Industries
Metal doors: Hollow Metal and Hollow Metal with Glass Lites – Ceco Door Products
Wood doors: Marshfield Doors, Signature Series
Sliding doors: Marshfield Doors, Signature Series
Hardware (need info on all)
Hinges: McKinney Hardware
Closers: Corbin Russwin Architectural Hardware
Exit devices: Corbin Russwin Architectural Hardware
Pulls: Stanley Hardware (at rolling door)
Suspension grid: Armstrong
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Custom painted plywood and stained plywood - Now & Then Restorations for install / Commercial Casework & Millwork for fabrication / Finishing was by Heartland Painting Contractors, Inc./Old World Stair Co. for some Finish Carpentry
Paints and stains: Sherwin Williams
Plastic laminate: Formica
Carpet: Shaw Contract Group Tile Carpet
Tile: Terazzo tile – Floorazzo
Wood Flooring: White Oak - Smith Hardwood Floors, Inc. for Floors and trim
Furnishings (see all at end of list)
Downlights: LSI Industries, Inc.
Task lighting: LSI Industries, Inc.
Exterior: Elcast Lighting
Add any additional building components or special equipment that made a significant contribution to this project:
Computer Area: Computer Carrells – PanGram by Lacasse; Computer Chairs – Caper Chair by Herman Miller
Reception/Check Out: Desk – Custom design by Architect, built by Commercial Casework & Millwork; Chairs – A La Carte by Steelcase
Seating near Elevator: Upholstered leather loveseat - Cubic via Loveseat by Indx Designs; Upholstered leather Chairs - Cubic via Club chairs by Indx Designs; Coffee table - Parsons Coffee Table by Room & Board; Side Tables – Shapes by Room & Board; Floor Lamp – Palo Floor Lamp by Room & Board
Children’s Area: Leather Loveseat – Cubic Neo Loveseat by Indx Designs; Kids Chairs – Shaker by Community Playthings; Kids Tables – Shaker Table Community Playthings; Floor Lamp – Palo Floor Lamp by Room & Board; Rug – Gee’s bend by Shaw
Reading Area: Floor Lamp – Palo by Room & Board; Upholstered leather Chairs - Cubic via Club chairs by Indx Designs; Side Tables – Shapes by Room & Board
Community Room Lounge Area: Floor Lamp – Palo by Room & Board; Side Tables – Shapes by Room & Board; Upholstered leather loveseat - Cubic via Loveseat by Indx Designs
McKee Community Center: Conference Chairs – Caper by Herman Miller; Folding Tables – Groupwork by Turnstone; Stacking Chairs – Domino by Turnstone
Librarian’s Office on second floor: Desk System – Pulse by First Office; Chair – Mirra by Herman Miller; Visitor’s Chair – Squareback guest chair by Steelcase
Archives Reading Area on Second Floor: Tables – Turnstone; Chairs - Steelcase