A second branch'the William O. Lockridge/Bellevue Library, also completed by Adjaye Associates for the District of Columbia Public Libraries (DCPL) system 'looks more like a Brutalist treehouse than the glimmering pavilion that is the Francis A. Gregory Library. Set on a steep, hilly site in southwest Washington, the branch was named both for a community activist and the Bellevue neighborhood. The design adheres to the same specifications as the Gregory branch in terms of size (23,000 square feet) and budget ($13 million), as well as the mandate to welcome the moderate-income community through varying programmatic spaces and services.
The tight, 30,000-square-foot site drops in grade about 40 feet, which prompted Adjaye to create a series of podlike structures spilling down the slope. He placed the library's entrance at the lowest point on the north, under large concrete pilotis supporting the building's poured-in-place concrete polygon. Smaller, attached, polygonal steel-frame structures with synthetic stucco surfaces contain more intimately scaled spaces'one for a children's activities room on the second level; two pods for teen services and meeting rooms on the third floor. Their fragmented geometries were meant to give the building a sculptural quality and prevent it from looming monolithically above the mostly brick houses nearby.
Nevertheless, the proposal caused a kerfuffle when David Adjaye first showed his scheme to the community in 2010. After several meetings the architectural ensemble became more Aalto-esque, with the addition of vertical Port Orford cedar fins that add scale and texture.
Today, as visitors enter the main volume, they find a large stair at one side leading up to the expansively glazed two upper floors. A rectilinear light well with green-tinted glass walls slices through the main pavilion without sacrificing transparency. The third floor's adult reading room, at grade with the upper part of the slope, looks into a wooded outcropping at the south. One summer afternoon, deer foraged the turf, oblivious to an audience in the nearby structure. They didn't seem uncomfortable with the architecture, a view that is evidently now shared by library visitors, judging from the heavily populated computer terminals and reading rooms on a hot summer day.
3660 Alabama Avenue, SE
Total construction cost: $13 million
Completion date:June 2012
Size: 23,000 square feet
District of Columbia Public Libraries
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Architect of record:
Wiencek + Associates
MEP: Setty & Associates International
Structural: ReStl Designers
Landscape: Greenhorne & O’Mara
Jair Lynch Development Partners
Coakley & Williams (mentor construction manager)
CAD system, project management, or other software used:
Steel Frame: Pavilions
Concrete: Main Building
Metal/glass curtain wall: Custom: Tower Glass Company, Woburn MA
Timber: Port Orford Cedar
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Lacquered finish
Office furniture: Herman Miller
Seating: Herman Miller
Shelving: Space Saver